Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican presidential candidate, conducted a 90-minute takedown late Thursday of his own Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who he characterized by name as a weak leader unwilling to fight for conservative causes. Cruz, a Tea Party conservative, frequently bucks Senate GOP leaders and has on at least one other occasion criticized McConnell in a Senate floor speech.
But late Thursday, he took on McConnell with renewed antipathy, using pie charts to demonstrate that the Kentucky Republican has bolstered the Democratic agenda rather than conservative goals during his ten-month tenure. “Why is a Republican majority leader fighting to accomplish the priorities of the Democratic minority?” Cruz asked.
Cruz criticized a broad budget and debt limit deal the Senate is scheduled to vote on early Friday, arguing that the accord gave President Obama and Democrats all that they wanted, with nothing in return for Republicans seeking to rein in spending and shrink the debt.
Many conservatives have waved off as insignificant a provision in the bill that aims to cut the cost of the nearly insolvent Social Security Disability Insurance program with heightened fraud scrutiny.
The legislation increases spending by $80 billion over two years, breaking budget caps. It also suspends the nation’s $18.1 trillion borrowing limit until March 2017.
“This means that Republican majorities in both parties will be extracting nothing significant from President Obama,” Cruz said in opposition to the bill. “This deal means that Republican leadership will have fully surrendered.”
Cruz’s drubbing didn’t stop with the budget.
Using pie charts, Cruz made the case that McConnell has helped to pass legislation opposed by the majority of Senate Republicans but supported by the majority of Democrats.
Climate change legislation and an amendment to revive the Export-Import were among the measures brought to the floor despite opposition from a majority of Republicans, Cruz noted. The provisions passed with mostly Democratic support.
Cruz said McConnell should employ an old GOP House rule to bring to the floor only legislation that has a majority of Republican Senators backing it. He said the established congressional leaders aren’t looking out for ordinary Americans but rather big corporations, who cut them checks for them at D.C. cocktail parties and reward them later with million-dollar jobs.
Cruz also targeted now former Speaker John Boehner, who retires Friday. Boehner wrote much of the budget deal Cruz opposes. “The lame duck speaker, on his way out, will no doubt land in a plush easy chair, in the Washington D.C. cartel, and will soon be making millions of dollars, living off the cartel,” Cruz said.
Cruz said Americans are onto the scheme and are tired of Republicans making promises on the campaign trail, only to shy away from big fights once elected. “That frustration is driving every day, the growing rage from the American people,” Cruz said.
McConnell has traditionally chosen to avoid responding to Cruz’s attacks and has discouraged other GOP lawmakers from defending him on the Senate floor. Most Senate Republicans support McConnell and have privately and publicly accused Cruz of using floor diatribes to raise campaign cash from the conservative base and support for his presidential bid.
Jim Manley, a former top aide to Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Cruz had taken an unprecedented step in attacking McConnell Thursday night. “I have never, EVER, seen anything like it,” Manley said on Twitter. “McConnell should not dignify with a response, but wow.”