Before he could make the late Nelson Mandela’s media-mobbed memorial service all about him by very publicly storming out (take that, Cuban President Raul Castro!), Sen. Ted Cruz had to get to South Africa.
His ticket to ride included a lengthy trans-Atlantic jaunt during which several members of the Congressional Black Caucus bent the Texas Republican’s ear about everything from swirling policy initiatives to personal issues.
HOH has confirmed that Cruz, who did not respond to email requests seeking clarification about any interactions whilst traveling, spent at least part of the 40-hour (round trip) voyage getting better acquainted with Reps. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., John Lewis, D-Ga., and Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
Several of those aboard the flight said Cruz was seated next to Moore for both legs of the trip.
An aide said Moore engaged Cruz on a number of pressing concerns, ranging from the Affordable Care Act (which Cruz has spent the past year attempting to eviscerate), Pell Grants, school vouchers and languishing political appointments.
“She did mention Mel Watt,” the Moore aide said, citing the case of the former House lawmaker and CBC alumnus whom the Senate finally approved to be head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency after seven months of procedural tug-of-war.
Team Moore categorized it as “a very friendly conversation;” they got so chummy, in fact, that the chatter eventually flowed into how each pol planned to spend the holidays.
Cummings echoed the collegiality of it all, stressing that everyone appreciated being able to engage one another sans artifice.
“It’s very rare you get that kind of time with someone whose views are so diametrically opposed to yours,” he said of the happy accident of everyone being thrown together for nearly two days. “I think it was meant to be.”
According to Cummings, expanding health care coverage was first and foremost in his mind. So their conversation naturally gravitated toward Cruz’s vehement opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“I really was hoping he would take a stance of fixing the Affordable Care Act ... instead of just being opposed to it,” Cummings said. He said that while Cruz did seem to sympathize with health insurance-less Texans, the hardline conservative maintains that the ACA is not the solution to the problem. “He never told me what he thought was an appropriate vehicle,” Cummings said of that particular ideological impasse.
The pair, apparently, also did a little bit of bonding.
“Come to find out we have a few things in common,” Cummings noted, citing their upbringing (“We’re both preacher’s sons”) and shared faith (Baptist) as fertile ground worth exploring.
Cummings does not, however, presume to have performed any Saul-to-Paul style conversions on the Canadian-born Cruz, a potential presidential hopeful.
“Hopefully, we planted some seeds in his head about why we are so concerned about things,” he stated. “[Because] he’s gotta run for president of all people. Not just those having a tea party view.”