MECHANICSVILLE, Va. — Minutes after taking a photo with Santa Claus and wishing him well on Christmas Eve, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz turned Grinch on Republicans on Capitol Hill who backed the omnibus spending bill that cleared earlier Friday.
"Now, it's Christmastime, so it was Republican leadership playing Santa Claus to the lobbyists and K Street and the special interests, and it's why people are fed up with the Washington cartel," the Texas Republican told reporters before a packed house at the Life Church in suburban Richmond.
"You know, just this week Senator Chuck Schumer was very candid about what happened. He said Sen. McConnell wants the Senate to work, and the only way for the Senate to work is for them to pass our agenda," Cruz said. "Well, that's exactly what Republican leadership just did is funded and passed Barack Obama's agenda."
Cruz was referring to a line from Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 Democratic leader, at the end of a Politico report about the relationship between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that both leaders panned and Reid literally tossed in his fireplace.
"It's why people are so frustrated, but's also so why we are seeing so much enthusiasm in our campaign," Cruz said. "People understand Republican leadership in Congress is not going to turn this country around. They're not listening to us. The only way to turn this country around is with a strong, principled, proven conservative in the White House."
To wit, Cruz picked up an endorsement at the Richmond rally from former Virginia Commonwealth Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the leader of the Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee that's a longtime foe of McConnell.
"I've maxed out to Sen. Ted Cruz today. I have never, ever done that before for any candidate for federal office, ever," said Cuccinelli, speaking before Cruz at the rally. "And many of you know how cheap I am. That hurts."
In addition to Cruz, Cuccinelli and Claus, Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., also made an appearance, among those greeting the senator ahead of the event. When Cruz referenced Brat on stage, highlighting his unseating of former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the church crowd erupted in shouts and raucous applause.
While he called the spending and tax agreement "a betrayal of the men and women who elected us," Cruz declined to criticize presidential rival and fellow Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for declining to leave the campaign trail Friday morning in order to make the votes at the Capitol.
Rubio told CBS News in Iowa that his vote was not particularly significant, and that not voting was the functional equivalent of voting no.
"Look, I'm running for president," Rubio said. "We do our job everyday. Even before I got on the air with you today, we were going through some constituent service work where I'm personally intervening on behalf of people in our office. When there are important votes, especially those where I can be a decisive voice, I'm going to be there."
Rubio had said Thursday there could be an effort to slow down the spending measure, but not long after that interview with Fox News, McConnell announced an agreement that provided for the expedited votes Friday.
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