The effort was doomed from the start — votes to fund the law are locked in, and even his own party’s leaders in the Senate have said they are unlikely to win the fight — but Mr. Cruz said the battle was worth it, no matter the pain it caused his colleagues.
He took the floor at 2:41 p.m. and vowed to remain “until I am no longer able to stand.” He was still going strong eight hours later, talking about topics that included health care policy and the sluggish economy — even pausing at 8 p.m. to read bedtime stories to his two young daughters watching him on C-SPAN from their home in Texas.
Mr. Cruz read from children’s Bible stories and then read “Green Eggs and Ham,” meaning the classic Dr. Seuss rhyme is now a permanent part of the Congressional Record.
His Twitter account, @SenTedCruz, posted highlights of his remarks, tagging them with #MakeDCListen, a slogan he repeated throughout.
His ostensible target was the health care law, but his opponents were his colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, who were standing in the way of defunding Obamacare with just a week to go before the law’s health care exchanges open.
Joined by a handful of allies inside the Senate and urged on by conservative groups outside the Capitol, Mr. Cruz said he wanted to “speak for 26 million Texans and 300 million Americans” who will suffer if the health care law takes effect.
While occasionally sipping water and stretching his legs, Mr. Cruz talked about small-business owners he met at a roundtable in Kerrville, Texas, who said they would not grow because of Obamacare. He also pointed to a member of his staff who chose to retire when she found out congressional aides would have to buy insurance in the exchanges, like many other Americans.
Inevitably, there were comparisons to Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster this year, where the Kentucky Republican held the floor for nearly 13 hours to protest the Obama administration’s drone policy.
Mr. Paul successfully delayed a vote on confirmation of a CIA director, and his effort forced the Justice Department to clarify its drone policy.
By contrast, Mr. Cruz’s effort appeared doomed to defeat even before it began. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, locked in a series of votes that will occur no matter what Mr. Cruz does.
Mr. Reid, who held a nine-hour filibuster in 2003, even chided Mr. Cruz, making clear that what he was doing shouldn’t be called a filibuster.
“There’s no filibuster going on now. People can come and talk. But they can’t do anything to change when we vote — the next vote,” he said.
He seemed to be trying to puncture some of the hype around Mr. Cruz’s effort, which has won support from tea party supporters desperate to score a victory.