On April 26, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a group of Tea Party supporters in his home State that his Republican colleagues in the Senate had acted like “a bunch of squishes” in cutting gun-control deals with aggressive Democrats ahead of the infamously ill-fated Manchin-Toomey gun control act.
Cruz, along with other libertarian-minded Congressmen like Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), have been cultivating a reputation for standing on principle, even if it means alienating the party establishment.
But on Wednesday, Cruz took that fight away from friendly audiences and went straight to the Senate floor, sparring with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) over what’s wrong with conservatives who strike liberally diluted devils’ bargains.
The topic was the Senate’s attempt to pass a budget — its first in four years. Led by McCain, moderate Republicans have been urging holdouts to go along with their Democratic colleagues and set up a budget conference committee to iron out differences between the Senate version of the budget and the one already passed by the House of Representatives.
Cruz and Paul, along with conservatives Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are fine with that approach — if the conference committee can guarantee the budget won’t come back with a provision that raises the Federal debt ceiling, which Democrats, of course, favor.
“If we go to conference without the debt ceiling being taken off the plate, it is a 100 percent certainty that the debt ceiling will be raised,” said Cruz.
McCain knows this. Why else would he, essentially, ask Cruz and his cohort of real conservatives to just take the whole thing on faith? Here’s McCain’s attempt at shaming Cruz into gullibility from the Senate floor:
Let’s put some confidence in — if not in the conferees appointed here, but in the conferees who will be appointed on the other side of the Capitol, who are of our party, who are fiscal conservatives just like we are. Instead of blocking, what I assure my colleagues — all three of them here, that is a minority of the minority of Republicans in the United States Senate — that [the majority] wants to move forward with a budget, which we spent so many hours and so much effort in achieving.
McCain followed that up Wednesday by pretending to be baffled at the idea that principle can trump compromise. “Basically, here, what we’re saying on this side of the aisle is, we don’t trust our colleagues on the other side of the Capitol, who are in the majority,” he said.
Damn straight, said Cruz, whose Jiu-Jitsu retort from the Senate floor used McCain’s words to drive home his own point about the corruption and moral inertia plaguing the leadership of both parties:
The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans. Let me be clear: I don’t trust the Republicans. And I don’t trust the Democrats. And I think a whole lot of Americans, likewise, don’t trust the Republicans and the Democrats because it is leadership in both parties that has gotten us into this mess.
Unfortunately, one of the reasons we got into this mess is because a lot of Republicans were complicit in this spending spree. And that’s why so many Americans are disgusted with both sides of this house. Because we need leaders on both sides…to roll up our sleeves, to compromise, to work together and fix the problem; fix the enormous fiscal and economic problems. Stop bankrupting our country.
And every Republican who stands against holding the line here is really saying, ‘Let’s give the Democrats a blank check to borrow any money they want with no reforms, no leadership to fix the problem.’”
McCain stopped short of calling Cruz a “wacko bird,” but he did describe the conservatives’ skepticism as “bizarre,” and he preened over his conservative pedigree — all while Senate Democrats reveled in the spectacle of Republicans feuding.
“I’ll match my record against anybody’s on debt and the deficit, and that includes the Senator from Florida [Rubio],” said McCain.