Chris Cillizza doesn’t think that Ted Cruz plans on being in the Senate for very long, and he predicts that he will never rise to any leadership level in the upper chamber. It’s easy to understand why Mr. Cillizza feels that way. Dana Milbank recounted the nasty details of how Ted Cruz’s antics caused chaos for his Senate Republican colleagues this week. Rarely have we been so fortunate to see such a plain display of hypocrisy exposed in the U.S. Senate, and we have Ted Cruz to thank.
The debate was over whether Congress would honor its debts and agree to pay its bills on time. It’s a vote that has a history of being politicized, with members of the party that is shut out of the West Wing traditionally withholding support for raising the debt ceiling in order to score cynical political points. Senator Barack Obama was guilty of playing this game back in 2006. But it has always been a sham. While it’s legitimate to argue over the size of government and to advocate for not spending more than we take in in revenue, it has never been a legitimate to suggest that we won’t pay our bills on time.
The Republicans under President George W. Bush presided over massive deficit spending, partly because of the huge tax cuts they passed and partly because they ran the economy into the Great Recession. When Obama became the president, they behaved as if he was responsible for the troubled financial books of the country and began agitating for balanced budgets. They demanded draconian budget cuts in return for agreeing to pay the bills they had racked up while they were in charge.
But they were never really serious about defaulting on our debts, and that is why Ted Cruz decided to show them up this week in Congress. The House Republicans decided to pass a clean hike of the debt ceiling, but only 28 of them actually voted for it. Since roll calls began to be recorded in 1991, there has never been a bill that passed with less support for the majority party in the House. Senate Republicans wanted to pass the debt ceiling hike, too, without actually voting for it. And they could have if they had just remained united enough to allow a majority vote.
The Senate operates by unanimous consent, which means that if even one senator objects to a motion, that the Senate must come up with 60 votes to proceed. When Senator Ted Cruz objected to a motion to proceed to a vote on raising the debt ceiling, he forced his Republican colleagues to come up with at least five votes to overcome his filibuster. The problem was that no Republican senators wanted to go on the record as supporting an end to Cruz’s filibuster. The moderates refused to walk the plank unless the leadership followed suit. So, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, who are both facing Tea Party primary challengers in this cycle, were forced to vote to end the filibuster.
Senator Cruz has some acute observations about the chaos he caused.
“In the 13 months that I’ve been in the Senate, it has become apparent to me that the single thing that Republicans fear the most — and that is when they’re forced to tell the truth. It makes their heads explode,” Cruz told conservative radio host Mark Levin in a remarkable interview posted on Thursday night.
By refusing to give his consent to the motion to proceed to the debt ceiling vote, Senator Ted Cruz exposed the truth, which was that his colleagues actually wanted the debt ceiling to be extended despite the fact that none of them planned to vote to make it happen.
“Make no mistake about it, this was their desired outcome,” Cruz said. “A lot of Republicans wanted exactly what Barack Obama wanted, exactly what Nancy Pelosi wanted, exactly want Harry Reid wanted, which is to raise the debt ceiling but they wanted to be able to tell what they view as their foolish, gullible constituents back home that they didn’t do it. And they’re mad because, by refusing to consent to that, they had to come out in the open they had to admit what they’re doing. And nothing upsets them more.”
Never mind that Senator Cruz is a lunatic who would prefer to have Congress renege on its debts, destroy the country’s credit rating, and cause widespread unemployment and economic mayhem. What he did was expose the hypocrisy of his colleagues who were pretending to support the same lunacy.
Let no one be fooled by Speaker Boehner’s decision to allow a vote that only 28 members of the majority actually voted for, and let no one be fooled by the Senate Republicans’ effort to allow a hike in debt ceiling without any of them actually supporting it. Thanks to Ted Cruz, their game was divulged.