Mitch McConnell and GOP leadership humiliate Ted Cruz on the Senate floor

Other junior senators wanting to grandstand on issues relevant to their presidential campaigns should take note


Scott Eric Kaufman
July 27, 2015 8:18PM (UTC)

All Ted Cruz wanted to do was abuse his position in the Senate to grandstand on issues that would help bolster his faltering bid for the White House, but his decision to call Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a "flat-out" liar on Friday had dire consequences for the Texas senator, whose Republican colleagues turned their back on him when he tried to perform a simple roll call on Sunday.

As Politico's Manu Raju and Burgess Everett report, McConnell's decision to move ahead with an effort to extend the Export-Import bank's charter by attaching it to a highway bill infuriated Cruz, who characterized the procedural move as a "flat-out lie" in direct contradiction with how McConnell assured Republican senators the bank would be handled.

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That he said that isn't the issue -- that he said it on the Senate floor, which has rules governing how senators address each other, is. "I think it was a violation of the rules,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said. “It’s not how you treat a colleague regardless of how you feel."

Maine's Susan Collins (R) agreed, saying that "I know emotions run high on issues in the Senate, and those are the times when I think we have to take special care to abide by the rules of the Senate, particularly Rule 19, which is very clear that no senator is to impugn the integrity of another senator."

As you might imagine, Cruz did not agree, claiming that his anger was justified because "in the entire course of this debate neither the majority leader nor any other senator has denied that he looked me in the eye and he looked every other Republican senator in the eye, and he flat-out said [there was] no deal on the Export-Import bank."

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Cruz, his Republican colleagues said Friday, was wrong on that account too. Fellow GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Lindsey Graham took what could be considered a cheap shot, saying that "unless you have been completely missing in action, you’d know this day was coming. I did a press release and floor statement. I think he's going down a road very few senators go."

His decision to do led him to a place where very few senators end up -- standing on the Senate floor Sunday looking for the 16 senators required to hold a roll-call vote and only finding three supporters. Raju and Everett report that as this simple procedural vote failed, McConnell craned his neck and stared the junior senator from Texas down.

Or, as Tennessee's Lamar Alexander (R) put it, "you learn that in kindergarten -- you learn to work well together and play by the rules. Another thing you learn in kindergarten is to respect one another."

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However, the incident may very well just play into Cruz's extant campaign narrative, in which he stars as the lone conservative voice in the GOP field, the only one willing to challenge the party's entrenched powers and push it further to the right. This wouldn't be the first time a Republican presidential candidate has failed his way to the top, after all.


Scott Eric Kaufman

Scott Eric Kaufman is an assistant editor at Salon. He taught at a university, but then thought better of it. Follow him at @scottekaufman or email him at skaufman@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Elections 2016 Iran Israel John Mccain Mitch Mcconnell Ted Cruz

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