Ted Cruz, R-Texas, ripped his fellow GOP senators on conservative talk radio, taking a bit of a victory lap for forcing a politically tough vote to lift the debt ceiling and avoid a default.
“Why is Congress at a 13 percent approval rating?” Cruz asked on the "Mark Levin Show" Thursday. “Because people don’t like to be lied to.”
His comments came after a dramatic vote in the Senate Wednesday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was forced to scramble to find at least five Republican votes to cut off debate on the debt ceiling bill cleared by the House Tuesday. (See our post on the six senators who appear to have changed their votes.)
Cruz mocked Republicans for allowing the bill to advance and suggested they are being dishonest.
“I recently had my staff print out a list of three pages of Republican senators — I might note all the people that are running around the press saying nasty things about me — saying ‘We will stand on the debt ceiling and fight for it.’ And then a few months later, it's like they think the American people are just a bunch of rubes, that we don’t remember what they say."
Cruz added, “Every one of those senators who’s angry when they go back home, they tell every one of their constituents to stop it, but they don’t actually want to do what they are saying.”
The debt ceiling legislation was a political stinker for Republicans because it was clean, meaning it did not include any extraneous provisions on which the GOP could claim a victory in exchange for their vote. That was because House Republicans could not agree on a concession sufficient to attract a majority of House Republican votes and passed a clean bill almost entirely with Democratic votes. (See a breakdown here .)
After the House acted on the clean bill, Senate Republicans had held out hoped that an agreement could be worked out to pass the debt bill with one simple majority vote, thereby allowing all Senate Republicans to vote against the bill, but still having it pass with the 55 votes that the Senate controls.
But Cruz, who has increasingly butted heads with GOP leadership, made it known that he would object to any such arrangement.
“Was every senator in the Senate going to consent to allow a clean debt ceiling, to allow [President] Barack Obama to get a blank check to raise our debt while doing nothing about spending with just 51 votes?” Cruz asked Levin. “Now there were an awful lot of Republican senators who thought that was perfect because they could all vote ‘no’ and go home and tell their constituents ‘see, I voted no, I did the right thing.’”
Cruz, a favorite of the grass-roots conservative tea party movement, said he roundly rejected the idea, which he cast as a ruse.
“If your ask of me is will I consent to allow [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.] to do this on 51 votes the answer is no. I will vote 'no' at every stage against it because it's irresponsible, because it's wrong, because we are bankrupting our children,” Cruz continued. “And Republicans' heads exploded.”
He said that many Republicans were advocating for the 51-vote threshold on the bill, and were upset at the prospect of having to take the vote.
“An awful lot of the Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted … which was to raise the debt ceiling [without reining in spending], but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as their foolish, gullible constituents back [home] they didn’t do it and they’re mad because by [my] refusing to consent to that they had to come out in the open and admit what they are doing and nothing upsets them more,” Cruz said.
The lambasting of his party comes as Cruz is eyeing a 2016 White House bid and traveling over the recess to early-voting states for the presidential primary.
Cruz went after McConnell over his voiced support for the Budget Control Act, which included a decade of automatic spending cuts to provide a dollar-for-dollar spending offset for the 2011 debt ceiling increase.
“If you look at the Budget Control Act, which I might note that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has gone on great lengths how the Budget Control Act was this great act of virtue and principle. Now they just threw it all overboard about a month ago, but right up until that point, it was a great act of virtue and principle.”
In December, Congress passed a bipartisan, two-year budget agreement negotiated Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., that would stop two years of the automatic spending cuts, about $63 billion, and saves about $85 billion over the next 10 years.
McConnell voted for the BCA and as momentum was growing to address the automatic spending cuts, which would hurt defense and other priorities, he praised the cuts because they were in the law and guaranteed to happen. He voted against the Murray-Ryan budget deal.
For roughly two years, Republicans have been divided over a strategy to achieve their political and policy goals.
Cruz has led the effort to use points of leverage that had been decided by the leadership to be counterproductive, such as his campaign to defund Obamacare, which resulted in a partial government shutdown in October.
Prior to the shutdown, mainstream Republicans had said that rather than risk a shutdown, their better point of leverage would have been getting a concession in exchange for addressing the debt ceiling.