Despite frequent assurances that he won’t criticise fellow Republicans during his presidential campaign, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) went after one of the most powerful figures in the Republican Party on Friday.
In an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on Friday, Cruz railed against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who he accused of lying to him about the re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank.
“I cannot believe that he would tell a flat-out lie,” Cruz said.
“We now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment that he is willing to say things that he knows are false,” he added.
It’s an extraordinary accusation rarely levied in such public fashion. Cruz is incensed by McConnell’s move to allow a vote on an amendment on a must-pass highway-funding bill to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which provides loans to foreign companies without other credit options.
Democrats say McConnell agreed to allow a vote on the amendment, offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), as part of a deal to pass a trade bill last month. Cruz said McConnell denied to him that there had been such a deal.
“The majority leader was visibility angry with me that I would ask him such a question,” Cruz said. “The majority looked at me and said, is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal.”
The bank’s charter expired on June 30, and has been a point of contentious debate among the Republican Party for more than a year now. Cruz, along with other populist conservative allies, say that the the bank is representative of “crony capitalism,” because the Ex-Im loans disproportionately benefit large companies. But some Republicans and most Democrats, including President Barack Obama, support reauthorizing the bank’s charter.
Cruz focused much of his floor speech Friday what he characterised as McConnell’s deception. He said the new majority leader is behaving like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), of whom Cruz is no fan. Adding a bit of insult to injury for McConnell, Reid tweeted during Cruz’s speech on Friday:
“Manna and karma,” one Democratic aide told Business Insider.
Cruz also dismissed the majority leader’s upcoming amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act as a “smokescreen” that’s doomed to fail, and complained that his own highway bill amendment calling for Iran to recognise Israel was not being taken seriously.
“He doesn’t want to end the cronyism for members of Congress,” Cruz said.
“Sadly today we have government of the lobbyist, for the lobbyist, and by the lobbyist,” he added.
As some observers and reporters have pointed out, Cruz has said during the course of his campaign that he will not criticise fellow Republicans.
Though he has been asked multiple times about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s recent controversial comments about Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), Cruz has refused to criticise the real-estate magnate because of his pledge to stay above the fray.
Cruz July 18: “In my time in the Senate I haven’t impugned the character of Republicans or Democrats and I don’t intend to start today.”
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 24, 2015
Cruz is among several Republican presidential candidates lining up against the Ex-Im Bank’s re-authorization. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) introduced his own amendment to kill the Ex-Im bank, while Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) has also spoken out against it.
For their part, Senate Democrats maintain that the Republican amendments are distracting from the issue of passing the highway bill before it funding on July 31.
“It’s not about Sen. Cruz’s ideological issues. … It’s about the hard fact that 60,000 of our bridges are structurally deficient,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) said immediately following Cruz’s speech.
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