Conservative newcomer Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Tuesday missed the Judiciary Committee deadline for filing immigration bill amendments when he found himself answering Senate Majority Harry Reid, who called him a “schoolyard bully.”
“The Senator felt that it was important to go down [to the floor] and protect the minority’s rights” regarding the budget, a spokeswoman in Cruz’s office said.
In his comments Tuesday evening, Cruz facetiously saluted Reid’s “demonstration of civility” regarding the bully comment and for referring to Cruz earlier Tuesday as the “very junior Senator from Texas.”
Reid on Monday sought unanimous consent to go to conference with the Republican-run House on a compromise budget blueprint. Cruz objected to Reid’s motion, and Reid called him a bully in the exchange.
Cruz on Tuesday evening noted that his objection had to do with a concern that the budget process could be used as a “backdoor tool to raise the debt ceiling” on a simple majority threshold, since budget resolutions are privileged in the Senate.
“For reasons unknown, the majority leader deemed my saying so out loud as somehow bullying,” Cruz said “Speaking the truth, shining light on substantive disagreements of our elected representatives, is not bullying; it is the responsibility of each of us. It is what we were elected to do. All of us should speak the truth and do so in candor. All of us should work together to solve the crushing economic and fiscal challenges in this country.”
Cruz delivered his remarks at about 5 p.m., which happened to be the deadline for filing amendments to the immigration bill. The Judiciary Committee is set to mark up the bill Thursday.
Cruz’s office said they alerted Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., that they would be filing late because of the circumstances. Leahy extended Cruz the courtesy of filing later.
“Yes, it was two hours late, but there wasn’t any issue of anyone sitting around waiting for us,” Cruz’s spokeswoman said. “There were over 300 amendments filed and a great bulk of the amendments were not posted until later that evening.”
Typically, the amendment deadline is the day before the markup, but with an avalanche of amendments expected, committee members agreed to file them 24 hours earlier, Cruz’s office said.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, also took to the floor to rebut Reid and seek an apology.
“Things happen when we get into heated discussions about matters of important public policy that probably should not happen,” Lee said. "Sometimes we say words we did not intend to say. Sometimes we say things that in the moment of weakness, perhaps we intended to say but should not have said.”
Lee continued, “If, in fact, the majority leader slipped and said something he did not mean to say or recognizes now that he should not have said, then I invite him to come forward. I am confident my friend, the junior Senator from Texas, will promptly and frankly accept his apology."
Cruz has raised the hackles of some of his colleagues by challenging them at the expense of the typical decorum and customs of the Senate, which usually helps keep an air of comity and provides an opportunity for goodwill to be built among members.
He previously clashed with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., during a Judiciary hearing in March on her assault weapons ban. Even some Republicans criticized him for implying without evidence that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel could have received speaking engagement money from Saudi Arabia or North Korea during his confirmation hearing earlier this year.