Texas Senator Ted Cruz Ends Year as He Began It: No Apologies

 Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Ted Cruz wasn’t the only politician who promised to shake up Washington when he was sworn in earlier this year.

But he delivered like no other.

By the time the brash Houston lawyer and Republican firebrand completes his first year in the U.S. Senate on Jan. 3, he will arguably have become the most recognizable face of the GOP’s unapologetic far right — not bad for a guy with no previous experience in elective office.

Loathed by Democrats, feared by many moderate Republicans and practically worshiped by Tea Party activists, Cruz took the U.S. Senate by storm almost from the minute his hand came off the Bible.

His harsh questioning of (and opposition to) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during the confirmation process sparked comparisons to red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy. He helped lead the successful fight against a bipartisan bill aimed at introducing mandatory background checks for people who buy firearms over the internet or at gun shows. And, unlike fellow conservative senators such as Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, he fiercely criticized and helped derail a comprehensive immigration bill whose future is now uncertain at best.

Perhaps most significantly, Cruz was a chief architect of the budgetary confrontation that sparked a partial shutdown of the government earlier this year — all in an effort to repeal Obamacare.

In the process, he became the star of a hot-selling coloring book, sparked endless speculation about a run for president in 2016 and even prompted an addition to the political lexicon — “Cruz Control” — generally used by people opposed to his confrontational, uncompromising style.

If there was any doubt about his mark on U.S. politics, a recent poll by Rasmussen seems to clear it up. Eleven percent of the Americans surveyed in it ranked him as the most influential person of 2013 — in the world. He came in third, behind Pope Francis and President Obama.

So what does Cruz have to say for himself as he nears the one-year mark?

Sorry? You’re welcome?

In a lengthy interview with The Texas Tribune on Wednesday, Cruz made it clear that he has no regrets to ponder or apologies to make. When it comes to the government shutdown, for example, Cruz said the fight helped crystallize the failures of the Affordable Care Act while strengthening his resolve to repeal it.

“The proof is in the pudding,” he said. “As a consequence of that fight, we elevated the national debate over the harms Obamacare is causing, and today President Obama has the lowest approval rating he has ever had, and the American public has turned strongly against Obamacare. The reason is simple. This thing isn’t working.”

Democrats don’t see it that way, of course. Texas Democratic Party spokesman Manny Garcia said Cruz pushed people away from the GOP and insulted hard-working Texans.

“Ted Cruz did a great job for Texas Democrats last year,” Garcia said. “As he drove the Republican Party off the ideological cliff, every day Texans turned to Democrats for responsible leadership.” Garcia gave Cruz an “F” for his efforts to kill Obamacare while representing a state that has the highest percentage of uninsured people.

But don’t expect Cruz to back down one iota. He said he will continue to seek the repeal of Obamacare, an idea that in his view has gone from the fringes to “a common-sense, middle-of-the-road” proposal given all of the woes of the new law, such as the botched website rollout and the cancellation of existing policies.

“I intend to do everything possible to stop Obamacare because it isn’t working and it is hurting millions of Americans,” he said. “The path to repealing Obamacare is going to be continuing to energize and mobilize the American people. The answers are not going to come from Washington.”

In the wide-ranging discussion, Cruz made a variety of other observations about his first year in office, his own future and other Texas Republican heavyweights. Among the highlights of the exchange:

  • Cruz said his concerns about Hagel as defense secretary were “rendered all the more relevant by the terrible deal the Obama administration has brokered with the nation of Iran.” He added: “In that confirmation hearing my focus was consistently on his record, on his disclosures and on his past statements, all of which raised substantial reason to doubt that he was an appropriate nominee for that position.”
  • In similar fashion, Cruz defended his questioning of Sen. Dianne Feinstein during a March debate over gun restrictions, when she angrily told him she didn’t need a “lecture” as if she were “a sixth-grader.” Cruz said he merely wanted to know why Feinstein didn’t see the proposal as a violation of the Second Amendment. “It was treated as a ridiculous question outside the bounds of reasonable discussion,” Cruz said in the interview. “That’s part of the reason why we have an out-of-control federal government with a $17 trillion national debt, because there is far too little focus on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
  • Cruz was perhaps the least talkative when asked about the U.S. Senate race, which pits Sen. John Cornyn against U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman and others. Reminded that Stockman was citing Cornyn’s opposition to Cruz’s tactics during the shutdown as a key reason he got in the race, Cruz said, “I like John Cornyn,” and “I like Steve Stockman.” He also noted that he and the senior U.S. senator have “stood side by side on a great many issues” but Cruz steadfastly refused to pick sides. “I’ve never liked it when Washington insiders try to pick winners and losers in Republican primaries,” Cruz said. “I think primaries should be decided by the grassroots in each state. … I’m going to leave it to the voters of Texas to make that decision.” 
  • Cruz, who was born in Canada, said he is living up to his promise to give up his claim to citizenship there but that it’s taking time. “I have retained counsel, and this is in process, but that has not been completed yet,” Cruz said. “My understanding is it should be completed sometime next year, but I don’t have an exact time frame.”
  • On the topic of his failure to disclose an investment in a Jamaican private equity firm, Cruz said his amended forms ended the matter as far as he is concerned. “To the best of my knowledge, that matter is fully resolved,” Cruz said. “We simply filed an amended filing because I realize I inadvertently omitted something I should have disclosed.”
  • As for a potential run for president, Cruz wouldn’t go there: “100 percent of my focus is on the U.S. Senate,” he said. “The Senate is the battlefield right now.” Cruz didn’t care to speculate about a potential 2016 presidential primary matchup with Gov. Rick Perry, either, though he had some kind words for the longest-serving governor in Texas history. “I think he’s been a good governor. He’s a friend, I respect him, and the economic growth and jobs in Texas over the last two decades have been extraordinary, and Gov. Perry deserves credit for helping create, helping maintain, an environment in which small businesses can prosper and thrive,” Cruz said. “I think more states should follow the model of what has worked in Texas.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/19/ted-cruz-ends-year-he-began-it-no-apologies/. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Jay Root, The Texas Tribune

Jay Root, The Texas TribuneJay Root is a native of Liberty, Texas. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business.

It all started when Root walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and soon realized it wasn't for him. Root applied for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since.

Root has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Texas Tribune.

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Tea Party Darling Stockman Files to Run Against Cornyn

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March GOP primary, joining at least eight other hopefuls vying for the senior senator’s seat, according to a spokesman with the Republican Party of Texas.

Stockman, who had filed for re-election in Congressional District 36, had to withdraw from that race to seek Cornyn’s seat.

In an interview with the website WND, Stockman said he was running because he was “extremely disappointed in the way [Cornyn] treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”

Brendan Steinhauser, Cornyn’s campaign manager, released a statement saying the senior senator was “endorsed by Texas Right to Life and ranked as the 2nd most conservative senator in America.”

“Sen. Cornyn looks forward to discussing his conservative record with Texans,” Steinhauser added.

As of Sept. 30, Cornyn had nearly $7 million in cash on hand, and will be a formidable incumbent. But some members of his own party have been gunning for him on the right, questioning his decision in late September not to not back U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s tactics in opposing the Affordable Care Act. In a break with tradition, Cruz has pointedly declined to endorse Cornyn’s re-election bid. 

GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak said Stockman faces an uphill battle, from recent investigations into his political and fundraising operation to Cornyn’s “huge bankroll.” 

“Now we will find out if Sen. Cornyn is truly vulnerable, which I have doubted,” Mackowiak said, adding, “I predict that not one member of the congressional delegation will support Stockman. Ultimately, he will need outside groups to spend, and that is the most important unknown right now.”

Stockman, who returned to office in 2012 after a 16-year absence, recently came under fire after a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed that he violated federal ethics laws by failing to disclose a series of business affiliations, while providing no details about the business he said was his only source of income.

During his most recent stint in the House, Stockman, a member of the Science, Space and Technology and Foreign Affairs committees, has also drawn plenty of other headlines — particularly on the issue of guns.

Cornyn’s other challengers in the Republican primary are relative unknowns. They include attorney and activist Linda Vega, Liberty businessman Dwayne Stovall, and Tea Party candidates Reid Reasor and Chris Mapp.

In the Democratic primary, Dallas dental mogul David Alameel faces El Paso lawyer Maxey Scherr and former GOP House candidate Michael Fjetland of Houston, who switched parties after the 2006 elections.

Stockman’s entry into the Senate race leaves an open door for last-minute filers in CD-36. John Amdur of Houston and Phil Fitzgerald of Hull have filed for that race.

John Reynolds co-authored this story.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/09/stockman-files-run-against-cornyn/Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Emily Ramshaw, The Texas Tribune

Emily Ramshaw, The Texas TribuneEmily Ramshaw oversees the Trib's editorial operations, from daily coverage to major projects. Previously, she spent six years reporting for The Dallas Morning News, first in Dallas, then in Austin. In April 2009 she was named Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors and the Headliners Foundation of Texas. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, she received a bachelor's degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

 

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Texas GOP Gets a Hand From Washington Democrats

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, l, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appeal for order as the Senate chamber erupted into chaos just before midnight June 25, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bob Daemmrich, The Texas Tribune.

Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, l, and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst appeal for order as the Senate chamber erupted into chaos just before midnight June 25, 2013. Photo courtesy of Bob Daemmrich, The Texas Tribune.

The conservatives who have been trying to get rid of the Texas Senate’s venerated two-thirds rule — here’s looking at you, Dan Patrick — may have received their best argument yet from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.

He is the majority leader in that body and the trigger man behind the death of a procedure that required a supermajority to approve a presidential nominee.

The Texas Senate operates on a supermajority, too. Under ordinary circumstances, it takes approval from two-thirds of the 31 senators to bring a bill to the floor for debate.

On partisan matters, that prevents the Republicans from bringing up legislation unless two of the Senate’s 12 Democrats defy their party.

Patrick, among others, would like to kill or change things. What’s the point of electing a majority if the losers can control the agenda?

The real question is whether it’s a good idea to let everything fly with a simple majority or to require bigger numbers before making new laws.

Each side has some great arguments. Texas Republicans are in charge now, and got there, in part, by drawing new congressional and legislative lines that took away a built-in advantage for Texas Democrats. They accomplished that initially after a Republican senator used the rule to block the Democrats, who were trying to keep their advantage.

It has been a weird year to watch the Republicans and the Democrats in the Washington and Austin bubbles.

In Austin, the Democrats have whined about Republican efforts to run over them, and they have used the tools of the minority — the two-thirds rule, filibusters, anything they could get their hands on — to slow things down.

Sometimes it works, as when Democrats blocked an education bill in May for fear it would legalize public vouchers for private schools. Sometimes it works temporarily, as when Wendy Davis filibustered to kill a bill on a legislative deadline, only to watch the Republicans reset the clock, by booting up another special session, to get what they wanted a few days later.

Scratch this, and you’ll find people arguing both sides. After one or two sessions in the Texas Senate, each officeholder has been either the stomper or the stompee — in the minority on something and the majority on something else. Washington seems to always be in a partisan fight. In Austin, the majority-minority fights shift constantly. Redistricting debates are partisan. Debates over budgets for education break on rural and suburban lines, or on lines between big and little property tax bases. Water wars are all about geography.

So the federal scrap over what got tagged as the “nuclear option” was all about partisans. The state ruckus is more nuanced, and even the strong proponents of change are inclined to move slowly. Drop it to a smaller supermajority like 60 percent instead of killing it, they suggest.

The initial resistance is partisan. After all, Patrick, a Houston Republican who is running for lieutenant governor, is one of the most conservative senators, and Democrats are immediately suspect of anything he supports. A lower supermajority like 60 percent would put Republicans in control, given the current configuration. It would take 19 people to call up a bill. Today, there are 19 Republicans. With Davis, a Democrat from Fort Worth, running for governor, Republican chances of taking her district have improved. With the two-thirds rule in place, Republicans would still need a defector on partisan issues, even with one of their own representing the 10th Senate District.

Democratic senators think they would get squashed if the two-thirds rule disappeared. Republicans, during the 1990s, would have had the same reaction. The traditions in the Senate are strong, and that has kept the rule in place for all these years. Earlier this year, in fact, senators voted unanimously to keep the rule.

But others in the race for lieutenant governor have endorsed the lower number. That makes it an item for discussion when the Texas Senate convenes after next year’s elections. Those Republicans want to exercise the full power of the majority without a pesky minority throwing obstacles in their way. Who wouldn’t?

Just ask Reid and the Democrats in the U.S. Senate.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/12/02/texas-republicans-get-hand-washington-democrats/. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Ross Ramsey, The Texas Tribune

Ross Ramsey, The Texas TribuneRoss Ramsey is managing editor of the Texas Tribune, and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. TW was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, Internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly two million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas.

Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was Associate Deputy Comptroller for Policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's Director of Communications.

Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin Bureau Chief.

Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas

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Two Texas GOP Senators, Two Very Different Styles

 Photos courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photos courtesy of Gage Skidmore

John Cornyn and Ted Cruz are opposites, right?

One is a senator from central casting, with the white hair and the soft face, a former judge who looks at ease in a suit or a golf shirt. An establishment guy, second in the U.S. Senate’s Republican hierarchy, the go-to guy for the White House during the Bush years and now a leader in the resistance to the Obama White House. He is a corporate type — the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

This other fellow’s hair is jet black. He’s younger, but did all of the things an establishment politician might do: Princeton, Harvard Law, a clerkship at the U.S. Supreme Court, a stint as an appellate lawyer for the state attorney general’s office. Son of an immigrant, great student, debater and so on.

But he is a firebrand, an unlikely pinup for populist conservatives, a hero to them as much for whom he beat and the way he won as for his politics.

Their ideologies are pretty much in sync, though they have their differences. The two are split on whether military sexual assault cases should be left in the chain of command (Cornyn) or handled by independent prosecutors (Cruz). Cornyn was critical of the strategy to shut down government over the budget for the Affordable Care Act, a strategy Cruz championed. Cornyn is up for re-election next year, and Cruz has pointedly avoided an endorsement of his colleague.

A lot of this is style. Independent scorecards generally rank Cornyn among the most conservative senators — a point he is insistently invoking in the run-up to the March primaries.

But while Cornyn has taken a methodical path to the top of the heap, Cruz has stormed the hill, flashing a rhetorical flamethrower and a knack for getting in front of the cameras.

The contrasts between Cornyn and Cruz aren’t exactly the same as those between the former Texas senators Lloyd Bentsen and Phil Gramm, who were from different parties and had bigger substantive differences, but there are parallels.

Cornyn succeeded Gramm. Cruz occupies the seat once held by Bentsen.

Gramm bucked the Democratic Party in support of Ronald Reagan’s economic policies, switched parties, quit his U.S. House seat, won it again and then won the Senate seat he held for 18 years. He was a camera hustler, especially early in his career. He had a flair for grabbing national attention on issues that more experienced colleagues considered their turf.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Cornyn isn’t the patrician Bentsen was, but he has the manner of a boardroom regular. If Cruz’s success is in his edginess, Cornyn’s is based on an ability to be congenial and confrontational at the same time.

Cornyn, first elected to the Senate in 2002, rose very quickly to a top position. In seniority, he’s right behind the minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is facing a serious re-election challenge. Cornyn could be at the top in a year, if things go wrong for the Kentuckian.

Cruz, unknown two years ago, is now the state’s most popular Republican. He’s a national news figure, a contestant in the current prospecting phase of the 2016 presidential contest.

Cornyn, like Bentsen, worked his way into the club. Cruz, like the early Gramm, is a noisy phenom.

In the 1980s, the two political parties were competitive in statewide races. Democrats had the edge, but Republicans were starting to win some statewide contests. With the competition confined to the Republicans for the last two decades, the most important distinctions are being made in that party’s primaries.

Cruz’s politics might be like Cornyn’s in many ways, but other things are important. Cornyn waited for an open seat to run for the Senate after working his way up from a district judge to the Texas Supreme Court to state attorney general. Cruz jumped the line, famously elbowing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst out of the way in a primary that was supposed to be Dewhurst’s to lose. Dewhurst, after all, had worked his way up the old-fashioned way.

The elections next year could bear odd and unexpectedly powerful fruit, leaving Texas with the hottest Republican in the Senate and the highest-ranking one, too.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/11/25/senate-matter-style/. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Ross Ramsey, The Texas Tribune

Ross Ramsey, The Texas TribuneRoss Ramsey is managing editor of the Texas Tribune, and continues as editor of Texas Weekly, the premier newsletter on government and politics in the Lone Star State, a role he's had since September 1998. TW was a print-only journal when he took the reins in 1998; he switched it to a subscription-based, Internet-only journal by the end of 2004 without a significant loss in subscribers. As Texas Weekly's primary writer for 11 years, he turned out roughly two million words in more than 500 editions, added an online library of resources and documents and items of interest to insiders, and a daily news clipping service that links to stories from papers across Texas.

Before joining Texas Weekly in September 1998, Ramsey was Associate Deputy Comptroller for Policy with the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, also working as the agency's Director of Communications.

Prior to that 28-month stint in government, Ramsey spent 17 years in journalism, reporting for the Houston Chronicle from its Austin bureau and for the Dallas Times Herald, first on the business desk in Dallas and later as the paper's Austin Bureau Chief.

Prior to that, as a Dallas-based freelance business writer, he wrote for regional and national magazines and newspapers. Ramsey got his start in journalism in broadcasting, working for almost seven years covering news for radio stations in Denton and Dallas

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Cruz’s Speech Further Propels Him Into National Spotlight

Photo courtesy of James Skidmore

Photo courtesy of James Skidmore

For more than 21 hours, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz spoke about why the nation should defund the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.” And although his floor speech might not succeed in accomplishing that policy goal, the national spotlight is squarely on the freshman senator from Texas who is considered a possible presidential contender in 2016.

Cruz, who began his remarks at 2:41 p.m. Washington time on Tuesday, vowed to speak until he could no longer stand in his effort to block passage of a federal budget that would not defund federal health reform. At noon on Wednesday, he was cut off by the Senate’s Democratic leadership, who took advantage of Senate rules that allowed them to start a new legislative day in the Senate, forcing Cruz to pause his marathon speech. After the Senate officially started its legislative day with a prayer and the pledge of allegiance, Cruz had the right to pick up his speech again until a vote scheduled for 1 p.m. Washington time, an option Cruz said he would decline. (Read the transcript of his overnight remarks here.)

“He’s now going to be the leading national politician fighting Obamacare, and that’s extraordinarily valuable territory to own,” said Republican political consultant Matt Mackowiak of Austin. “We have some strong conservatives for 2016, but few of them have fought for something in a meaningful way.”

Cruz argued during his speech that premium rates would ultimately be higher because of Obamacare and that businesses would cut back on employee hours or cut existing health benefits. He also used his time to talk about his father, who came to Texas from Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear, and to read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham to his daughters in Texas.

“Obamacare is the biggest job killer in this country,” Cruz said. “The American people want to stop this madness, and so do I.”

He repeated several times during his remarks: “We need to make D.C. listen.” His supporters used the hashtags #makeDClisten, #StandWithCruz and #DefundObamacare on Twitter.

Cruz’s argument to defund Obamacare even at the cost of shutting down the federal government drew widespread criticism from members of his own party as well as from Democrats.

Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa called Cruz’s move “a ridiculous and shameful attempt to force a government shutdown.”

“What Cruz is doing has caused a civil war among Republicans, and leads to an outcome that would harm Texans and our economy,” Hinojosa said in a statement.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, indicated that they opposed Cruz’s plan to block the bill.

“While I remain committed to defunding Obamacare, I’m also committed to avoiding a government shutdown,” Cornyn told reporters Wednesday in a conference call.

Cornyn praised Cruz for bringing attention to the “debacle” of Obamacare and said that all Texas Republicans in Congress are united in opposing the health law.

“There have been some differences within the family on tactics, on how to accomplish that goal,” Cornyn said. “That’s all the differences are.”

Cruz’s speech – technically, not a filibuster – didn’t beat the Senate record, held by Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in 1957 against the Civil Rights Act, according to The Associated Press. The world record for the longest filibuster was set by Bill Meier in 1977, who spoke for 43 hours on the floor of the Texas Senate.

Cruz’s address drew comparisons to Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ 11-hour filibuster earlier this year to fight some of the nation’s strictest abortion regulations (she stood on her feet for 13 hours). The Fort Worth Democrat succeeded in temporarily blocking the restrictions, but the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature eventually passed them.

State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, called Cruz a “Wendy wannabe” but said there was a key difference between the two speeches.

“Wendy Davis filibustered for women’s health,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “Sen. Cruz filibustered against people having health care.”

Mackowiak said the speeches by Davis and Cruz were similar in that both involved procedural deadlines, compelling policy issues and physical exhaustion. Davis, however, had her party united on her side.

“They’re either both grandstanders or they’re both heroes,” Mackowiak said.

Aman Batheja contributed reporting.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/09/25/senator-ted-cruzs-speech-ends-after-21-hours/. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Corrie MacLaggan, The Texas Tribune

Corrie MacLaggan, The Texas TribuneCorrie MacLaggan is the demographics reporter at the Texas Tribune. Previously, the Austin native worked as a national correspondent for Reuters, writing and editing stories about Texas and nearby states and overseeing a network of freelance writers. Before joining Reuters, she covered Texas government and politics for the Austin American-Statesman, writing about everything from gubernatorial races to food stamp application backlogs. She spent her first year at the Statesman writing for the newspaper's weekly Spanish-language publication.

She has also worked in Mexico City, where she wrote for publications including the Miami Herald's Mexico edition, Latin Trade magazine and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Her first reporting job was at the El Paso Times. Corrie is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied journalism and Spanish.

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Political Opportunism in Syria

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

There is a danger in being as glib as Sen. Ted Cruz, the winner of several national debating awards in college. He has utilized his considerable rhetorical skills to put himself in the 2016 discussion. But by both politicizing and trivializing the question of whether to bomb another country, Cruz has shown that he is unready for serious consideration.

Many reasonable people agree with him. According to a USA Today/Pew Research Center Poll, opponents of striking Syria outnumber supporters by a 2-1 margin. To use Pres. Barack Obama’s favorite phrase, let me be clear: Good, reasonable Americans oppose Obama’s plan to hit Syria with cruise missiles.

But there is nothing commendable, patriotic or civilized about how Cruz is mining this crisis for political advantage. Cruz debuted his debatable tactic by making the defensible argument that Al Qaeda is fighting alongside the Syrian rebels and the indefensible argument that an American strike would align our military with terrorists.

“We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as Al Qaeda’s air force,” said Cruz. Texas’ very junior senator should take care to note that our troops join the military to serve their country, not to, as you know, further his craven ambition.

Cruz’s claim that Obama wanted the United States military to serve as “Al Qaeda’s air force” seems more at home in the John Birch Society than in polite society, but then again, this is Texas. Questioning the patriotism and loyalty of the Commander-in-Chief is just good business for Republicans, but his choice of words not only violates the quaint rule that politics stops at the water’s edge but questions the patriotism of our Commander-in-Chief.

For Sen. Cruz, that was just Wednesday.

Asked to defend his preposterous accusation, Sen. Cruz first threw up a smoke screen (“that actual line initially was said by Dennis Kucinich“) before restating that hitting Syria “would help al-Qaeda terrorists.”

The meanest thing you can do to politicians is take them at their word, so let us assume for the sake of a reasonable debate that the Syrian civil war has galvanized Islamic terrorists. Asked what should we do about this hotbed of our mortal enemies, Cruz said that we “should force a vote in the U.N. security council” to “make [Russia and China] veto it on the world stage” to “unify international opinion condemning [Assad].”

Cruz’s newfound support for multilateral international pressure might come as a shock to Texas Republican primary voters. In his 2012 campaign, Cruz touted the unfounded conspiracy theory that George Soros is funding a United Nations effort called Agenda 21 that will “abolish ‘unsustainable’ environments, including golf courses, grazing pastures, and paved roads.”

Cruz then undercut his transparent sop to the United Nations by implying that the Syrian situation was not very serious at all despite the prevalence of our mortal enemies. The real issue, he said, was not the international war crime of using chemical weapons. It was Benghazi.

“One of the problems with all of this focus on Syria is it’s missing the ball from what we should be focused on, which is the grave threat from radical Islamic terrorism. Just this week is the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi,” he said.

Taking Cruz at his word requires an understanding of quantum politics in which alternate truths coexist simultaneously. Using chemical weapons is a distraction, so we should rally world opinion against it. The Syrian rebels are in league with Al Qaeda, but focusing on Syria is a distraction from “radical Islamic terrorism.” In fact, attention paid to Syrian war crimes distracts us from Benghazi, the focus of umpteen congressional hearings.

Our checks-and-balances constitution requires Americans to agree to disagree. In deciding whether to go to war, we should respect those who disagree in good conscience. But by seeking to gain political advantage in the debate over whether to kill Syrians, Senator Cruz has shown himself worthy not of respect but contempt.

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Jason Stanford

Jason StanfordJason Stanford is a Democratic political consultant and opposition researcher based in Austin. He served as 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell's campaign manager and chief spokesman. As the head of Stanford Research, he leads opposition research for various candidates and interest groups across the region.

Stanford moved to Texas in 1994 to work as a Deputy Press Secretary for the Ann Richards Committee. Jason and a former colleague founded Stanford Ryan Research & Communications, Inc. in January 1997. The firm became Stanford Research in 1999.

He’s the co-author of “Adios, Mofo: Why Rick Perry Will Make America Miss George W. Bush”, and has a degree in Russian from Lewis & Clark College.

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Is Cruz Crowding Cornyn Out?

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has been in office since 2002 and serves as the upper chamber’s minority whip. Yet based on the political buzz, he’s playing second fiddle to a relative newcomer, Tea Party favorite and conservative darling Ted Cruz

 

Ben Philpott, The Texas Tribune

Ben Philpott hosts Agenda Texas for KUT-FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

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Cruz Fighting an Uphill Battle to Defund Obamacare

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman

On the statewide speaking circuit, U.S. Sen Ted Cruz has made upending the federal Affordable Care Act sound simple: “The House of Representatives should pass a continuing resolution that funds the entire federal government, every bit of the federal government, except Obamacare,” he told a group of Houston realtors last month.

Now entering his third week on the road in a tour of primarily Texas cities, Cruz has only amplified his message, encouraging grassroots supporters to sign an online petition and contact their lawmakers to support this defunding approach. At one of his first stops in Kingwood in mid-August, the petition website DontFundObamacare.com had roughly 300,000 signatures. Today more than 1 million people have signed on.

But despite Cruz’s fervor, it’s not an idea many of his Republican colleagues are getting behind, including Cruz’s Texas counterpart, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. In July, Cornyn, the Senate minority whip, withdrew his signature from a letter drafted by 11 U.S. House Republicans including Cruz demanding that Congress defund the health reform law as a condition for approving the rest of the budget.

“Among the opponents of the Affordable Care Act, there’s a growing sentiment that the defunding effort is fruitless,” said Edwin Park, vice president of health policy at the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

In an email, Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier indicated that the senator was directing his efforts at the voting public, not at his congressional colleagues.

“The senator has said time and again that the only way we can win the fight is if Americans stand up and demand it of their elected officials,” Frazier wrote. “He believes if this happens, we can win.”

It’s still unclear exactly what effect defunding federal health reform would have — and who would stand to lose most.

Park said that while “defunding would block implementation,” the law would still be on the books, so Americans would still be required to carry health insurance under the individual mandate. The IRS just wouldn’t have the funding needed to assess penalties.

Parts of the law have already been rolled out gradually; many Americans have become accustomed to provisions like letting young adults remain on their insured parents’ policies up to age 26.

And since 2010, more than $81 million in grants tied to the Affordable Care Act have been awarded to the five Texas agencies that manage health: the Departments of Insurance, State Health Services, Health and Human Services, Aging and Disability Services and Family and Protective Services.

Those federal dollars pay for a variety of programs that do things like expand electronic records use for immunizations, facilitate elder abuse intervention, and promote cervical cancer screenings and HIV prevention. Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission, said the funding isn’t to implement or enforce federal health reform; many of these programs existed before it became law. But now the funding flows through the Affordable Care Act.

“As to what would happen to those programs and long-standing grants if ACA was defunded, it’s not clear,” Goodman said.

As Congress returns from its August recess, the GOP strategy may be shifting to measures that would delay implementation — of the health insurance marketplaces, slated to go online Oct. 1, and the individual mandate, expected to take effect Jan. 1.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2013/09/03/shifting-obamacare-attack-strategy/. Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

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Alana Rocha, The Texas Tribune

Alana Rocha, The Texas TribuneAlana Rocha joined the Texas Tribune staff as the multimedia reporter after working eight years in television and radio news. She's covered politics for stations in Florida, Kansas and most recently in Austin as YNN's lead political reporter. Her work at the cable news outlet took her around the country reporting from the presidential campaign trail. A native of Tampa, Florida, Alana received bachelor's degrees in Journalism and Spanish from the University of Florida.

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Ted Cruz Easily Wins U.S. Senate Race

Photo coutesy of Gage Skidmore

Ted Cruz, a Harvard-educated lawyer and Tea Party icon, easily won the U.S. Senate race Tuesday night, becoming the first Hispanic from Texas to land the job.

Cruz had a huge, insurmountable lead in early returns. In early statewide returns, his total was slightly behind Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney‘s total, but the gap represented a relatively low number of split ballots. Romney was beating President Obama by more than 15 points with about 85 percent of the precincts reporting, according to early unofficial returns.

The outcome of the U.S. Senate race was never much in doubt. Democrats haven’t won statewide in Texas since 1994, and Democrat Paul Sadler had so little money — about 5 percent of what Cruz raised — that he couldn’t even afford to run a single TV ad hitting all media markets.

Sadler conceded before 9 p.m. in a brief address to supporters. At that point Cruz was winning 57 percent to 40 percent.

“I’m proud to stand in front of you and say we have a new senator-elect named Ted Cruz,” Sadler said. “I want us to be proud in our response to the voters’ choices.”

About a half hour later, Cruz took to the podium at a jubilant victory celebration in Houston. He said he had gotten a “gracious” phone call from Sadler and told the cheering crowd he was the next senator from Texas.

“What a journey we have been on together. What an incredible, magical journey,” Cruz said. “They said it was impossible. They said it couldn’t be done, but when the people stand together nothing is impossible.”

Cruz, a domestic policy adviser on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign and solicitor general of Texas from 2003 to 2008, is considered a brilliant legal scholar. But this will be his first job in elective office.

The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz was considered a long shot when he got into a crowded Republican primary that included the deep-pocketed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Cruz began that race on a shoestring budget and focused for months on building relationships among a far-flung network of Tea Party activists who came to make up the campaign’s most die-hard supporters. They relied largely on social media and candidate forums to spread their message, hoarding their campaign money for TV ads they knew they could not run until the final few weeks of the race.

Cruz’s defeat of Dewhurst in the July 31 runoff shocked the political establishment and set the stage for Cruz’s easy victory Tuesday night.

Sadler’s runoff with political novice Grady Yarbrough drew little interest by comparison, and only a fraction of the millions showered on the Republican primary.

A former state representative from East Texas, Sadler attempted to portray Cruz as an extremist who was out of step with mainstream Texas, even at the risk of coming across as strident and angry. In one Texas Tribune interview, Sadler took issue with Cruz’s Canadian birth and his ties to Washington, saying, “He needs to go back to Washington where he’s from, or Canada, because he doesn’t reflect us.” Later, in a debate, Sadler called Cruz a “troll,” a comment he later said he regretted making. 

But Sadler, like a trail of Democrats before him, got almost no traction in the electorate and even less among donors. The latest campaign finance reports show the Democratic lawyer raised $600,000, compared with some $14 million raised by Cruz.

Cruz will join a growing cadre of Tea Party Republicans who are determined to scale back the size of government and reduce the debt. Drawing on lines from his stump speech, Cruz warned that the United States was going down the road of “European socialism,” and he promised to do everything he can to stop it.

Cruz vowed to fight President Obama unless he changed his ways.

“If he is re-elected and intends to continue down this same path, then I will spend every waking moment to led the fight to stop it,” Cruz said.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-politics/2012-congressional-election/cruz-easily-wins-us-senate-race/.

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Jay Root, The Texas Tribune

Jay Root, The Texas TribuneJay Root is a native of Liberty, Texas. He never knew any reporters growing up, and he has never taken a journalism class in his life. But somehow he got hooked on the news business.

It all started when Root walked into the offices of The Daily Texan, his college newspaper, during his last year at the University of Texas in 1987. He couldn't the resist the draw: it was the biggest collection of misfits ever assembled. After graduating, he took a job at a Houston chemical company and soon realized it wasn't for him. Root applied for an unpaid internship at the Houston Post in 1990, and it turned into a full-time job that same year. He has been a reporter ever since.

Root has covered natural disasters, live music and Texas politics — not necessarily in that order. He was Austin bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for a dozen years, most of them good. He also covered politics and the Legislature for The Associated Press before joining the staff of the Texas Tribune.

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How Ted Cruz Did It

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Tea party insurgent Ted Cruz‘s thrilling and improbable victory over Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in Texas’s GOP Senate primary provides a model for future long-shot candidates to follow, though repeating what Cruz did will be difficult.

A long line of dominoes had to fall, in the precise order that they did, for Cruz to overcome an opponent who had every advantage a political candidate can have.

Dewhurst had unlimited financing (he spent at least $19.9 million of his own money), universal name recognition, unanimous support from the Austin political establishment and massive political power as the leader of the Texas Senate.

Ted Cruz had courage, wisdom and a hunch.

When Cruz’s eventual campaign manager told me in early 2011 that the former Texas solicitor general would likely run for retiring U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison‘s Senate seat, I scoffed at the idea. The race was beyond his reach, he couldn’t raise enough money, he had never been on the ballot before, other likely candidates possessed statewide name recognition and Cruz’s Hispanic surname would hurt him in a Republican primary.

But Cruz and his team were undeterred by the naysayers. They went to work.

In Texas, if a primary candidate wins less than 50 percent of the vote, the top two primary candidates advance to a runoff. Cruz’s biggest insight was that he could win a runoff against Dewhurst; the hard part would be making it to the runoff.

Cruz set out to build the largest grassroots army in Texas history, believing that passionate supporters would act as force multipliers.

But first he needed help.

In politics, the shape of the field determines the race. Cruz needed to become the consensus conservative candidate in order to make it a one-on-one race against Dewhurst, so he could nationalize the campaign. When it began, four candidates sought the conservative mantle: Cruz, Railroad Commissioners Michael Williams and Elizabeth Ames Jones and former Secretary of State Roger Williams. Cruz came out ahead by outworking and outperforming his competition.

Early on, Cruz won the support of the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks (and later the Tea Party Express), whose outside efforts would prove critical later. He unexpectedly raised significant money (about $1 million every three months), a task made more difficult by the large, unsettled field.

Conservatives gradually lined up behind Cruz, giving him momentum and forcing the other conservative candidates to drop out. By the filing deadline, Cruz was the only tea party candidate in the race.

Traditionally, Texas has March primaries. But wrangling and a court battle over the state’s redistricting map forced election officials to move the primary to late May, with a runoff in the dog days of summer in late July, ultimately reducing turnout and giving Cruz more time to raise money and build momentum.

And Cruz’s momentum kept building. National Review put him on its cover, just as it had put Marco Rubio on its cover two years before. Syndicated columnist George Will wrote a glowing column in which he described Cruz as a candidate who was “as good as it gets.”

The five strongest conservatives in the U.S. Senate — Jim DeMint, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey and Tom Coburn — all endorsed him. Talk radio followed, with Mark Levin, Glenn Beck and eventually Sean Hannity endorsing Cruz.

This momentum forced two other potential candidates — Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) and State Senator Dan Patrick — not to run, keeping Cruz as the only movement conservative in the field.

But there may have never been a runoff between Cruz and Dewhurst were it not for two crucial late developments. Ten days before the runoff, Ron Paul endorsed Cruz, which brought Paul’s supporters into the fold. Then former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) endorsed him, bringing in a wave of invaluable earned media, small donor contributions and momentum. Those endorsements helped Cruz get enough votes in the May 29 primary to force a runoff. At that point, the race’s ultimate result was inevitable.

Two months later, on runoff election night, Cruz’s rabid volunteer base, outside support and huge momentum carried him to a crushing 13-point win.

Cruz is a once-in-a-generation candidate who ran a nearly flawless campaign in a favorable political environment. But he never should have been able to win. Indeed, as he has said to his supporters, “I alone could not win this race. But with your help, we could not lose.”

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Matt Mackowiak

Matt MackowiakMatt Mackowiak is a Republican political consultant and pundit. He is the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, a political consulting firm based in Washington, DC, and Austin. He worked on the Bush-Cheney campaign during the 2004 presidential elections.From 2005-2007. Mackowiak was the Senate Press Secretary to U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, R-MT. From 2007 until April 2009, he performed the same job for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX. Mackowiak is an Austin native. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2003 with a B.S. in Communications Studies, with a concentration in Political Communications.

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