If any doubt existed that the people of Texas sent a young lion to prowl the halls of the Senate, it ended in the past two days. The day after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a candidate for president of the United States, confronted Code Pink protestors on the issue of the Iranian nuclear deal, Cruz took to the floor of the Senate and said that the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a “flat out lie” concerning the reauthorization of the Export Import Bank. As Politico noted on Friday, conservatives like Cruz are keen to end the depression era relic that they view as corporate welfare. McConnell, however, maneuvered to make certain that the bank continue.
“In a scathing floor speech, the Texas firebrand accused the Senate majority leader of breaking his word to him and the rest of the GOP conference over McConnell’s plans for the controversial Export-Import Bank, the country’s chief export credit agency. In Cruz’s telling, McConnell privately promised him and other Republicans that ‘there was no deal’ with a handful of senators who were seeking to revive the bank in exchange for their votes to advance a major trade bill in May.”
Cruz even compared McConnell to St. Peter, denying Christ three times but denying the deal, which actually existed, three times. Officially the Export Import Bank is dead, having failed reauthorization. But its supporters are keen to find any legislative vehicle to revive it. McConnell, despite his assurances to Cruz and other senators, appears to be working to make that happen.
Cruz is already being attacked for a lack of decorum for calling out a fellow senator on the floor in such blunt terms. On the other hand, lying to a fellow senator, especially one of one’s own party, would also seem to be indecorous. Cruz was unapologetic when he later made a rare appearance on the Rush Limbaugh show. He repeated his theme of what he sees as a culture of corruption and cronyism that has infected the Senate on both sides of the aisle.
No doubt, Cruz was genuinely angry at being lied to. However, as the Washington Post pointed out, Cruz’s fiery speech had a political purpose. Donald Trump has been riding high on public discontent over the mendacity that many perceives to permeate Washington. In a way, he has been stealing Cruz’s thunder, since the junior senator from Texas has been expounding on that very theme. His speech and his appearance on Limbaugh’s show would appear to be an attempt to get it back. Cruz has been careful to treat Trump with politeness. The reason is that when Trump flames out, as most people expect him to do, his followers will gravitate to Cruz. By going nuclear on the Senate floor, Cruz has at least garnered notice.