Despite having full control of the national government, congressional Republicans compromised with leadership and jointly pitched Washington on a debt limit increase of $300 billion with no cuts in spending over the objections of conservative lawmakers and pro-taxpayer organizations.
“This budget deal is a betrayal of everything limited government conservatism stands for and I will be voting no,” US Sen. Mike Lee (R–UT) told The Daily Signal.
Lee wasn’t alone. The conservative US House Freedom Caucus announced its opposition as did most of the nation’s leading limited government organizations such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action, and FreedomWorks.
“The Club for Growth opposes the Schumer-McConnell budget deal and urges all members of Congress to vote NO on it,” wrote the organization on its website. “A vote is expected soon in both chambers. The vote will be included in the Club’s 2018 congressional scorecard.”
— Heritage Action (@Heritage_Action) February 8, 2018
— FreedomWorks (@FreedomWorks) February 8, 2018
But over the objections of conservatives, the vote passed the US Senate early Friday morning—something that shouldn’t surprise any American given its position in the deepest part of the swamp. But what was surprising was the vote of one particular lawmaker: US Sen. Ted Cruz (R–TX).
Rather than join his usual allies of Lee, US Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY), and US Sen. Ben Sasse (R–NB), Cruz announced prior to the vote that he would be “reluctantly voting for the legislation” due to the increased military and disaster relief funding.
Cruz’s full statement can be viewed here, but it concludes thusly:
“Washington logrolling sometimes forces lousy choices. This is one of those choices. I will vote yes on this bill because Texas desperately needs disaster relief and because the decade-long weakening of our military readiness has now reached crisis levels. But I do so with deep reservations.
This bill will increase our deficits and increase our debt. That’s foolhardy. Instead of increasing non-defense discretionary spending, we should be reining in government spending. Eliminating unnecessary government programs. We should be showing the courage to finally reform long-term entitlement spending, which drives two-thirds of our spiraling debt. And we should be passing structural reform, like a federal Balanced Budget Amendment and Term Limits Amendment. And I am committed to continuing to fight to deliver on each of those promises.”
To be sure, voting against the bill would be difficult for Cruz given the amount of Hurricane Harvey-related aid to Texas that it contained, but recognizing the tar baby Cruz was forced to contend with doesn’t excuse his vote.
Indeed, conservatives should remember Cruz opposed the Hurricane Sandy relief package because of the waste it contained and they should also note that this tone from Cruz today is strikingly different from the one he took earlier in his legislative career.
“At every stage there’s a promise: ‘Next time we’ll stand and fight but not this time,’” said Cruz in a 2015 debt ceiling fight. “That is leadership’s position. That we can accomplish nothing other than the priorities of the Democrats such as growing government and expanding the debt.”
It’s important for voters to remember that there are no godlike beings in the halls of government, and that even the heroes sometimes make mistakes. It’s for that reason lawmakers are elected for delineated terms rather than for life.
While this vote is certainly disappointing, Cruz continues to be a lawmaker that citizens should support. Because of his body of work and record fighting the fight in Washington he’s been endorsed in his re-election campaign by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility and a bevy of other groups.
That isn’t, and shouldn’t be, in jeopardy for one vote, but to quote Cruz himself, again from 2015, “If you have a candidate who’s stood against Democrats, that’s great. When have you been willing to stand up against Republicans? When have you been willing to stand with the people?”
Cruz was able to stand with the people against the leadership of his own party while Barack Obama was president, but like many conservative lawmakers he’s had trouble finding where to place his feet now that a Republican is in the White House.
Cruz deserves considerable credit for his efforts pushing tax reform, school choice, and holding the line against amnesty just as much as he deserves the heat he is receiving for this recent decision.
But Cruz should remember that given his role he’ll receive heightened scrutiny and praise compared to other legislators, for better or for ill. While he isn’t necessarily the leader of GOP, he is the undisputed leader of the national conservative movement both within the Capitol and with grassroots activists across America. And those armies need their champion on the battlefield.