Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas conceded Wednesday that he doesn't trust fellow Republicans to not agree to fast-track a debt ceiling increase as part of a budget conference, after prodding by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans. Let me be clear: I don't trust the Republicans, and I don't trust the Democrats," Cruz said. "I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don't trust the Republicans and the Democrats because it is leadership in both parties that has gotten us in this mess."
Cruz's statement on the floor answers a question we posed weeks ago, asking if Cruz would trust House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., the party's vice presidential nominee in 2012.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was seated in the chamber during the conversation.
Cruz's comments came after McCain came to the floor for the second day in a row in support of a move by Democrats to go to conference on a House-Senate budget. McCain contends that the GOP should seek to instruct the conferees through a nonbinding process rather than taking an unusual step of binding conferees.
Cruz and several Republican colleagues, including Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida argue that since the debt ceiling wasn't debated as part of the Senate's consideration of the budget resolution, it should not be possible to use the reconciliation process for such an increase in the debt limit. Reconciliation rules allow legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority and limited debate.
It seems that Cruz could have offered an amendment to the budget resolution to block a debt limit increase through reconciliation during the Senate's vote-a-rama earlier this year, however.
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., followed up saying that if making it not in order for a conference committee to make certain moves became the norm, he would suggest Social Security be kept away from conference.
"I think I'd get a lot of support for that and we wouldn't go to conference. But at the end of the day, if we're serious, we're supposed to sit down and work out our differences, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans," Durbin said.
Truth be told, air-dropping provisions into conference reports is a well-established (if sometimes unsavory) practice. In this case, it seems unlikely that the House negotiators would agree to such a move unless they strike a thus far elusive grand bargain with their Senate counterparts.
Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., has tried for weeks to get a consent agreement to get to a budget conference and bypass an assortment of unusual procedural hurdles that could be erected.
While McCain and Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins have spoken on the floor in support of that effort this week, numerous other Senate Republicans have signaled support for getting to conference. That's a point McCain made on Wednesday.
"We're talking about a minority within a minority," McCain told Durbin. "The majority of my colleagues in the United States Senate on this side of the aisle, with motions to instruct the conferees, want to move forward and appoint these conferees and do what every American family has to do in America and that's to have a budget."