“I’m not interested in Republican on Republican violence,” Sen. Ted Cruz said recently on Meet the Press, when asked to weigh in on Donald Trump’s controversial comments about Mexican immigrants. But on the Senate floor on Friday, Cruz showed no such reluctance. He lashed out fiercely against a fellow Republican—and not just any fellow Republican. In a move that stunned veteran congressional reporters, the freshmen senator and presidential hopeful strongly denounced Mitch McConnell, publicly calling the Republican majority leader a liar.
Longtime congressional reporter Paul Kane of the Washington Post tweeted that Cruz’s attack on McConnell was unprecedented.
Concur. This is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. https://t.co/EODk6OlpJV
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) July 24, 2015
Fox New’s Chad Pergram called it an “extraordinary scene.”
Extraordinary scene on as Cruz accuses McConnell of being a liar. Very rare to have such internal GOP on GOP violence laid bare on flr
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) July 24, 2015
Cruz’s tirade against the Republican leader lasted nearly 20 minutes. In scalding tones, he blasted McConnell for setting up a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing and loan guarantees to help American corporations secure international contracts. The Ex-Im Bank, whose charter expired at the end of June, has been targeted by tea party-ish conservatives, who believe the institution perpetuates government-subsidized corporate cronyism. Cruz alleged the reauthorization vote was part of a secret deal McConnell cut with Democrats and that McConnell lied to Cruz and his fellow Republican senators about the existence of this agreement.
“Today is a sad day for this institution,” Cruz began. “These hundred senators have to be able to trust that when a senator says something, he or she will do it. Even if we disagree on substance, that we don’t lie to each other.”
Cruz then listed his accusations against McConnell. It all began, he noted, with a vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) several weeks prior. At the time, Cruz suspected that the leader had promised to help reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank’s charter in exchange for Democratic support for the TPA, and, he said, he had asked McConnell point-blank, at a lunch of the entire Republican caucus, if he had cut such a deal. McConnell, he claimed, told him no. “There is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal,” Cruz recalled McConnell saying. “Like Saint Peter, he repeated it three times.”
But, Cruz said, it “became abundantly clear there was a deal.” Now, Cruz claimed, McConnell is fulfilling his side of the bargain by setting up a vote on an amendment to the must-pass highway bill that will reauthorize the bank. He also accused McConnell of introducing an amendment to repeal Obamacare—that is sure to fail—in order to appease the Ex-Im Bank’s critics. Cruz called this gambit “empty showmanship.”
“What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator but what he told the press over and over again was a simple lie,” Cruz said.
Next Cruz launched into a populist attack on both parties for backing the bank, which he called “a classic example of cronyism and corporate welfare.” Both parties, he said, took checks from lobbyists on K Street, then teamed up in “looting the taxpayer” to aid big corporations.
The only person who made out okay in Cruz’s tirade was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a progressive and fellow presidential candidate who also opposes the Ex-Im Bank. “I’ll give credit to Sen. Sanders for standing against corporate welfare,” Cruz said.
McConnell’s spokesman did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
In recent days, as Donald Trump has come to dominate the GOP presidential contest, other Republican candidates have employed extreme measures to gain attention as they seek to qualify for the first GOP debate scheduled in two weeks. Rand Paul chain-sawed through the tax code. Lindsey Graham lit a cell phone on fire. With this move, Cruz targeted a Republican leader who has not been too popular among the GOP tea party base. And, at least, he was guaranteed coverage on C-SPAN.