It's no secret that lawmakers on Capitol Hill aren't big fans of Sen. Ted Cruz, but their distaste for the Texas Republican was validated Wednesday night as Cruz refused to endorse Trump and told the delegates in Cleveland to vote their conscience in November.
"Sen. Cruz tried to destroy the Republican Party tonight just like he's tried to destroy the Republican caucus," Indiana Sen. Dan Coats said. "I've had to deal with the most self-centered person I've ever known in my life."
Luckily for Coats, Cruz was not the last Republican to speak in the prime-time program.
"Mike Pence saved the night for Republicans and now we have a clear picture of who needs to lead our party," Coats said. "And it's Donald Trump and Mike Pence — people with optimism, people with courage, people who care about the future of America, rather than someone like Ted Cruz who only cares about himself." [ Cruz to Delegates: 'Vote Your Conscience' ]
Trump was less upset. "Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge!" he tweeted. "I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!"
Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 21, 2016
Presumptive Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton also weighed in when she tweeted, "Vote your conscience," with a link to the voter registration page on her website.
Vote your conscience. https://t.co/xahMq2sU1q — Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) July 21, 2016
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said that Cruz showed that he's not a man of his word by dishonoring his pledge that Republican presidential candidates took to support whomever emerged as the party's nominee. It was an "awful, selfish speech," Christie told MSNBC.
Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., a Trump supporter, said he is disappointed, but not surprised, Cruz didn’t endorse Trump but he’s not surprised.
“Even the Senate members don’t like [Cruz],” he said. “He’s just sour grapes, and he’s not a big enough man to check his ego at the door and do what’s right for the country.”
While Cruz endorsing Trump would’ve been the right thing to do, Marino said, it’s not needed.
“We do not need Ted Cruz to take the White House,” he said. “I can’t remember any other speaker at a Republican convention who got booed off the stage.”
Asked if this would affect the party’s ability to unite, Marino said, “No. I think this will affect negatively Ted Cruz’s right now not so good political career.”
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, disagreed.
He was surprised Cruz didn’t endorse Trump and he does believe the episode will hurt the party's chances for unifying, especially when it comes to Cruz supporters backing Trump.
"They have this memory of the din here on the floor, as Ted Cruz is trying to close his speech," King said.
Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta, who endorsed Trump, said he was standing with Marino and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert on the floor while Cruz spoke. When it started to look like Cruz wouldn't endorse Trump, Barletta said he looked back at the teleprompter to see if an endorsement was coming.
"I just couldn't believe he would end his speech, being invited by Donald Trump to speak, and not make an endorsement," he said.
Barletta said Cruz made a "big mistake."
Gohmert was more reserved in his reaction but still made it clear he wasn't pleased with how things transpired.
"I asked Donald Trump to meet with Ted," Gohmert said. "And not only did he fulfill my request to sit down with Ted, but he also asked him to speak — even without an endorsement. So I would not pretend to say what I thought he should or shouldn't have done."
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, who had endorsed Cruz in the primary after Mike Huckabee dropped out, said he was disappointed but was trying to get too upset until he learns what Cruz's intentions were.
"There may be some other strategy here that I don’t see, so I’m trying to temper my remarks," Franks said.
Like Cruz, Franks did not have nice things to say about Trump during the primary. But perhaps unlike Cruz, Franks realizes the alternative to not supporting Trump is effectively supporting Clinton.
"I was probably one of his more vociferous detractors in the primary," Franks said of Trump. "But as I just expressed to you, when it’s a binary decision, we have a great responsibility to make sure that we keep this republican intact. And now there’s only one way to do that."
Asked if Cruz’s refusal to endorse gives other congressional Republicans room to do that as well, Franks said, “I hope it doesn’t.”
Eric Garcia contributed to this report.