Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, delivered a brutal speech bashing his own party’s leadership’s failures on the Senate floor on Friday morning after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved forward with a plot to reauthorize the Export Import Bank.
In the speech, Cruz says—calling him out personally—McConnell lied to the entire Republican conference. Cruz’s speech stemmed from how McConnell—despite telling the entire GOP conference there was no such secret deal with the Democrats during the Obamatrade process to later bring up Ex-Im reauthorization—actually did cut a deal with Democrats, specifically Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
“Today is a sad day for this institution,” Cruz said on the floor.
The Senate operates based on trust. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, these 100 Senators have to be able to trust that when a Senator sys something, he or she will do it. Even if we disagree on substance, that we don’t lie to each other. What we just witnessed this morning is profoundly disappointing.
Cruz then proceeded to expose comments McConnell made to Republican senators in a private lunch, showing that McConnell lied to his entire conference. The comments Cruz talks about were around the time of the first Obamatrade votes in the Senate, when McConnell told Republicans—something that has since been proven to be untrue—that there was no deal with Democrats to vote on Ex-Im later in exchange for the necessary votes to pass Obamatrade.
Cruz voted for Obamatrade’s Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) the first go-around in the Senate based on McConnell’s word—and he famously turned against the fast-track trade authority later.
“I want to describe the context of two preceding discussions. A number of weeks ago when this Senate was considering Trade Promotion Authority, a group of Senators gathered on this floor and blocked TPA for many minutes because they were pressing for the Export-Import Bank,” Cruz said.
They huddled on this floor and negotiated a deal in front of C-SPAN, in front of the world. Then when they had their deal, TPA had the votes to pass. Shortly thereafter, we had a Senate Republican lunch where I stood up and I asked the Majority Leader very directly what was the deal that was just on TPA and was there a deal for the Export-Import Bank. It was a direct question. I asked the Majority Leader in front of all the Republican senators. The Majority Leader was visibly angry with me that I would ask such a question, and the Majority Leader looked at me and said there is no deal.
Cruz noted that McConnell made the promise that “there is no deal” three times in public and then again in a private discussion with him and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
“There is no deal. Like St. Peter, he repeated it three times,” Cruz said.
He said the only thing I told the proponents of the Export-Import Bank is like any other Senator in this body, they could offer any amendment they liked on any amendable vehicle, but I gave them nothing. There is no deal. He was emphatic. And he was repeated. Following that Republican discussion, Sen. Mike Lee and I approached the Majority Leader afterwards in which he emphasized again there is no deal, I will do nothing, I oppose the Export-Import Bank. All I said is they can offer an amendment like any Senator can to any bill. Madam President, I went back to my office and I sat and had a long discussion with my staff.
In those discussions, Cruz said his staff told him that McConnell was lying to him. But he couldn’t believe right off the bat that the Senate GOP majority leader would lie like that to his face or to the faces of all other GOP senators.
“My staff told that afternoon he’s lying to you,” Cruz said.
That’s what my staff said. We have been around the Senate a long time. He is not telling you the truth. And what I told my staff that afternoon, I said well, I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but I don’t see how when the Majority Leader looks me in the eyes and makes an explicit promise — and by the way, looks in the eyes of every other Republican Senator and says that to every other Republican Senator, I don’t see how I cannot take him at his word when he makes an explicit promise. As a result, I cast my vote in May in support of TPA because I support free trade and I felt I had no choice but to assume that when the Majority Leader spoke to 54 Republican Senators and made an explicit promise that he wasn’t lying to us. Well, as TPA moved on, as it went to the House, it became abundantly clear, there was a deal. There was a deal in the House for the Export-Import Bank. And so the second time TPA came up, I voted ‘no’ because of that corrupt deal.
From there, Cruz proceeded to further berate McConnell on more than just the Ex-Im Bank secret deal.
“Let me tell you a second element of the background context,” Cruz said.
A number of weeks ago when we were debating the Corker-Cardin bill, the Iran Review Act, there were a number of amendments that senators had filed. I filed an amendment that will actually put teeth in the Iran Review Act by requiring affirmative congressional approval before sanctions on Iran could be lifted. Other senators filed very good amendments. Sen. Marco Rubio filed an amendment calling for Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State before sanctions could be lifted. Our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle did not want to vote on that amendment. And, in response, the Majority Leader cut off all amendments. Madam President, I sat in the Majority Leader’s office, and I urged the Majority Leader invoke cloture on Sen. Rubio’s amendment calling on Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist and setting that as a precondition of any lifting of sanctions. I argued vociferously with the Majority Leader that if the Democrats were so opposed to voting on that amendment, that was all the more reason because it was important substantively, and the Majority Leader said no, he would not do so, that invoking cloture on an amendment was an extraordinary step, and he wouldn’t do so. So he cut off off every amendment. He filled the tree and terrace.
Cruz then noted the hypocrisy where now Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid called out McConnell for engaging in the same tactic he engaged so many times to close down Senate debate.
“It was striking a minute ago seeing the Democratic Leader Harry Reid calling out the Majority Leader for filling the tree, for engaging in the same procedural abuse that railroaded—that Harry Reid did over and over and over again in this body,” Cruz said.
Now the Republican Leader is behaving like the senior senator from Nevada. What we just saw was not, Madam President, what the Majority Leader told you and me and every other Republican senator. What we just saw was not that the proponents of the Ex-Im Bank, like anyone else, could stand up and offer any amendment they’d like on any issue. What the Majority Leader just did is, number one, he called up that amendment. He called it up himself. Why does that matter? Because as Majority Leader he has priority of recognition. When he calls up an amendment, no one can stop him. He didn’t just call it up. He filled the tree, just like Harry Reid, he filled the tree, blocking everyone else’s amendments. By the way, I agree with Senator Reid when he said the Obamacare amendment is a cynical amendment. Of course it is. It is empty showmanship.
Cruz then hammered GOP leadership for putting forward nothing more than a show vote—a meaningless vote—on repealing Obamacare.
“We’ll have a vote on repealing Obamacare,” Cruz said.
The Republicans will all vote “Yes.” The Democrats will all vote “no.” It will be at a 60-vote threshold. It will fail. It will be an exercise in meaningless political theater. Mind you when we actually had a fight to stop Obamacare and defund it, the Majority Leader was opposed. But an empty showboat, that is a good way to distract from what’s going on. There is a profound disappointment among the American people because we keep winning elections and then we keep getting leaders who don’t do anything they promised. The American people were told if only we have a Republican Majority, things will be different. Well, in 2010, the American people showed up in enormous numbers and we got a Republican majority in the House. And very little changed. Then the American people were told, you know, the problem is the Senate. If only we get a Republican majority in the Senate and retire Harry Reid as Majority Leader, then things will be different. Well, in 2014, the American people rose up in enormous numbers, voted to do exactly that. We’ve had a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress now for about six months. What was that majority done?
Cruz then proceeded to detail how the 2010 and 2014 elections handing the GOP majorities in the House then Senate didn’t matter one bit at all.
“First thing we did, in December, is we came back and passed a $1 trillion Cromnibus plan filled with pork and corporate welfare,” Cruz said.
That was the very first thing we did. Then this Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare, voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. And then leadership rammed through the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Madam President, which of those decisions would be one iota different if Harry Reid were still Majority Leader? Not a one. Not a one. This Senate operates exactly the same. The same priorities. And let me tell you why. It’s not that this majority doesn’t get things done. It does get things done. But it listens to one and only one voice. That is the voice of the Washington cartel, of the lobbyists on K Street, of the big money and big corporations. You know, if you go to the American people and ask is reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank a priority for you, the standard response for most of them would be ‘the what?’ They don’t even know what this is. Let me tell you what this is. It is an egregious example of corporate welfare. It is the American taxpayers being on the dime for hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees given out to a handful of giant corporations. It is a classic example of cronyism and corporate welfare. And by the way, among others you know one person who had the clarity of thought on that?
Cruz then noted how when Obama was in the Senate, he was opposed to the Ex-Im Bank—and then proceeded to further detail how the Ex-Im Bank is crony capitalism—before he turned his fire on McConnell again.
“Madam President, it saddens me to say this,” Cruz said.
I sat in my office, I told my staff the Majority Leader looked me in the eye and looked 54 Republicans in the eye. I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie, and I voted based on those assurances that he made to each and every one of us. 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 and over again was a simple lie. This institution should not operate at the beck and call of lobbyists in Washington. This institution, the Majority and Minority Leader arm in arm again, should not team up against the American taxpayers. It’s why our children are going bankrupt. Now we’re facing an enormous threat with this Iran deal, a nuclear Iran poses the greatest national security threat tot his country.”
Cruz laid out next how McConnell wouldn’t take the steps he took to force the crony capitalist Ex-Im Bank through the Senate to protect the nation of Israel from President Obama’s deal with Iran.
And yet the Majority Leader refused to do what he just did for the Export Import Bank on Iran, refused to invoke cloture,” Cruz said. “That was an extraordinary step. Madam President, if he was telling us the truth when he said there was no deal, why would he do what he just did? Well, we now know that when the Majority Leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment that he is willing to say things that he knows are false. That has consequences for how this body operates. If you or I cannot trust what the Majority Leader tells us, that will have consequences on other legislation as well on how this institution operates.
Cruz said the U.S. Senate, in addition to actually stopping the Iran deal, should be focused on matters like defunding Planned Parenthood.
“There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video,” Cruz said.
The Majority Leader doesn’t want to vote on that. That’s actually something the American people are focused on. He brought up his Obamacare amendment as a smokescreen because it’s intended to fail. But you know what he didn’t bring up is my amendment to end the congressional exemption from Obamacare, the corrupt deal that Harry Reid made with Obama. We’ve got to live under the same rules as everybody else. The Majority Leader doesn’t want to vote on that because he doesn’t want to end the cronyism for members of Congress any more than end the cronyism for giant corporations who enrich themselves at the expense of the American people. There are a host of priorities that the voters who elected you and me. Madam President, I would ask you to think about when you were running for the Senate not too long ago. Do you recall any of your constituents ever saying we want the Export-Import bank? No. They want other things. They have other priorities, but those are not the priorities of Republican leadership. Sadly today we have government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists. That is not how the United States Senate is supposed to operate. A far more important amendment than bringing back this corporate welfare and cronyism is my amendment that provides that sanctions on Iran cannot be lifted unless and until Iran does two things. Number one, it recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. And number two, it releases the four American hostages languishing in Iranian prisons. That is a far more important issue than enriching some more lobbyists on K Street and getting a few more campaign contributions. That’s what we should be voting on.
McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment in response to Cruz’s speech.