McCain has criticized fellow GOP senators for isolationist positions and attempts to cut foreign aid.
He added, “We’ve always had this struggle within the Republican party going back to post-World War I when the Republicans — isolationists kept us from joining the League of Nations. The isolationists prior to World War II, which meant we were not ready — the anti-military after Vietnam ... where we had a hollow army.”
Foreign aid amendments were just a few of those offered in final hour and a half of the vote-a-rama on the fiscal 2014 budget resolution. And the atmosphere grew tense as exhausted senators were asked to stay in their seats for the duration as some of the toughest amendments were brought to a vote.
Another Cruz amendment led to the least comfortable display. He offered an amendment that would create a point of order against funding the United Nations if any member nation has forced abortions. While directed at the U.N., the proposal was a thinly-veiled criticism of China’s one-child policy. That amendment forced senators to choose between supporting forced abortions or funding for nuclear weapons inspectors.
As CQ Roll Call reported Saturday, Cruz’s amendment drew sharp criticism from Sen. Mary L. Landrieu. As senators voted from their desks, the Louisiana Democrat got up from her chair and walked across the room to Cruz’s position in a rear corner to confront him directly about the offering.
Landrieu said she thought Cruz should have pushed instead for Texas to reduce or eliminate financial transactions with China, saying “that would have had a much more direct effect on what he was trying to do than take money from the U.N.”
Eight Republicans voted against the Cruz amendment, including McCain, who spent the morning effectively sharing a desk with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was using the leader’s desk to manage the floor. Seated next to Cruz, Ayotte voted for his amendment. So did Graham, but he did not look pleased with the way the proceedings were going.
The votes also presented Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with a choice: Go with McCain and Graham and support an aggressive foreign policy, as the Republican has often done in recent years, or vote with Cruz and Paul in criticizing the United Nations and foreign aid.
Rubio went with Cruz and Paul, a potential 2016 rival.
All of this positioning may highlight an old expression of McCain’s that he repeated last week.
“If you’re United States senator, unless you are under indictment or detoxification, you automatically consider yourself a candidate for president of the United States,” said McCain, who was the GOP standard-bearer in 2008.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News about his first weeks in Washington, Cruz said he thinks establishment members of both parties are making sure their actions are constitutionally-justified, a point on which Graham and McCain would be sure to differ.
“The biggest surprise has been the defeatist attitude of many Republicans in Washington. A lot of Republicans felt beaten down, and that there was nothing they could do to stop the erosion of liberty in this country,” Cruz told the newspaper, according to an edited transcript.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.