Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s kooky speech in the Senate this week was so long and incoherent that a few bored lawmakers were willing to take a look at the 2407-page law that will take effect in a few weeks.
By twisting parliamentary rules, Cruz took the Senate floor for almost a whole day, subjecting his colleagues to bizarre stunts such as a reading of Green Eggs and Ham, unnatural praise for White Castle burgers, and a Darth Vader impression.
Most senators, understandably, passed the time with their smartphones — tweeting, working on a hard level of Candy Crush or checking TMZ for sexy Miley Cyrus photos.
For the unlucky lawmakers who had forgotten their iPhones, Cruz’s crazy monologue was unbearable, prompting a few senators to thumb through the actual wording of the Affordable Care Act that will fundamentally change the way Americans receive health care.
Many senators were surprised how heavy the document was, while others said holding the hefty piece of legislation gave them unexpected tactile pleasure.
“That feels real good,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–NY). “That feels like two smooth hardback copies of Moby Dick glued together. Mmm, that’s nice on my hands.”
“It’s a real law,” he added, dabbing at his eyes with his tie. “And we passed it. Kudos to us.”
John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, said that even for a guy who was held prisoner by the Viet Cong for half a decade, tolerating Cruz’s speech about “leprechauns, or leprechauns in movies or maybe movies about fast cars or something” was difficult. McCain was also compelled to flip through a few pages of the law.
“That reads well,” he said of the first pages. “That reads very well. I might just bring this home with me.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) said that he’d already read the entire law, but that he’d need to go through it again to discuss it in any detail. Yet when pressed for his opinion as to whether the prose was clear, and if the language was free of dense legalese, he admitted he had only skimmed it — and the first half, at that.
“It looks nice. I will say that much,” Reid said. “I’ll say it on the record. The Government Printing Office made a work of art. They chose a very suitable typeface for such world-changing legislation. The paper is strong, too, just like Americans, Americans who deserve a lot more than we give them.”
About sixteen hours into the mad rant, Sen. Al Franken (D–Minn.) groaned, momentarily distracting Cruz, who was probably singing the Diff’rent Strokes theme song or something. Franken, who spent much of his adult life as a comic actor, is known to have a low reading level. He had come across a section on page 357 that was too much for him to bear, so he asked nearby colleagues to help him better appreciate the meaning.
“I totally get it,” he said. “I just want to see how you all interpret it. I want your take.”
In his normal voice — not that funny Stuart Smalley voice from his days at Saturday Night Live — he read aloud the following:
(1) Subparagraph (B) of section 6724(d)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to definitions), as amended by section 1502, is amended by striking ‘‘or’’ at the end of clause (xxiii), by striking ‘‘and’’ at the end of clause (xxiv) and inserting ‘‘or’’, and by inserting after clause (xxiv) the following new clause: ‘‘(xxv) section 6056 (relating to returns relating to large employers required to report on health insurance coverage), and’’ (2) Paragraph (2) of section 6724(d) of such Code, as so amended, is amended by striking ‘‘or’’ at the end of subparagraph (FF), by striking the period at the end subparagraph (GG) and inserting ‘‘, or’’ and by inserting after subparagraph (GG) the following new subparagraph: ‘‘(HH) section 6056(c) (relating to statements relating to large employers required to report on health insurance coverage).
“Just read it again to yourself,” said McCain. “You’ll get it the fourth or fifth time around.”
“Al, Did you go to school when you were a little boy?” said Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D–Md.).
21 hours after he’d begun, after he had exhausted the last of the hot air in his lungs, a weakened Cruz left the chamber and, presumably, took off his clothes, dashed out to where reporters had gathered in front of the Capitol, and announced in a robotic voice that of all the colors in the world, spaghetti was his favorite.