Sen. Ted Cruz’s epic talk energized his tea party supporters and raised his profile ahead of the 2016 presidential contest, but there is little evidence that it fostered a rethink among voters or their elected representatives in the Senate, who said they didn’t see an uptick in calls during the 21-hour affair.
Shortly after Mr. Cruz wrapped up his remarks, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, signaled that his position had not changed and he will vote with Democrats to finish debate on a stopgap spending bill, defying Mr. Cruz, who asked Republicans to unify behind a blockade.
“Anyone who votes to cut off debate on this bill, is voting to allow Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fully fund Obamacare,” Mr. Cruz said.
Mr. Cruz’s call to arms whipped the Twitterverse into a frenzy, and grass-roots conservatives across the country — including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Club for Growth President Chris Chocola — celebrated the effort.
“Americans owe Sen. Ted Cruz a debt of gratitude for standing on principle in the fight to stop Obamacare,” Mr. Chocola said. “The Washington elite is in complete denial, but here are the facts: Obamacare is a disaster, it is one of the biggest assaults on individual liberty in history, it is stifling economic growth, and it will not work.”
Mr. Cruz’s effort also energized tea party supporters looking for a champion, but didn’t appear — at least early on — to expand the effort to defund Obamacare beyond the small breakaway group of conservatives on Capitol Hill who have spent months urging colleagues to reject any spending bill that would allow President Obama’s health care law to proceed.
Despite the Twitter explosion, senators said the volume of calls to their offices hadn’t increased.
Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, a Democrat whom Republicans hoped to sway on the Obamacare vote, said it was business as usual in his office, where his staff was fielding the normal flow of phone calls from voters on both sides of the issue.
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said calls to his office remained high, but it didn’t appear to be an organic outpouring.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls all day long for days, but we’ve also said, ‘Did someone ask you to call my office?’ and the majority of them said they had been contacted to contact my office and many of them are not from Arizona,” Mr. McCain said.
Mr. Cruz’s filibuster was his latest attempt to rally the public against the Affordable Care Act before Tuesday when open enrollment for health insurance exchanges kicks off.
Over the summer, Mr. Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah urged lawmakers to sign a pledge to defund Obamacare, and Mr. Cruz headlined anti-Obamacare town halls sponsored by Heritage Action, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The efforts scored headlines and rallied grass-roots voters, but failed to gain a lot of traction on Capitol Hill.
Lawmakers have been keeping a close eye on polls, which show waning public support for Obamacare but limited support for a government shutdown.
Indeed, just 14 of the chamber’s 46 Republicans signed on to a pledge to reject any spending bills that include funding for Obamacare.