Ted Cruz mocks Senate Republican ‘squishes’

In an appearance at a tea party rally Friday, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) offered a rare look inside Senate vote-jockeying -- and took a rare shot at his fellow Republican lawmakers.

Speaking of the recent debate over gun control, Cruz told the audience at a FreedomWorks summit in Texas that the issue "generated more heat" inside the party than any other in recent memory. There were several lunches, he revealed, where fellow Republicans confronted him and his allies "yelling at us at the top of their lungs."

Along with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cruz put out a letter threatening to filibuster Democratic gun legislation. Republican senators were upset, Cruz said, by town hall attendees demanding they join the effort.

"There are a lot of people who don't like to be held accountable," he said.

The Wall Street Journal attacked the group for letting President Obama blame Republicans for blocking gun control instead of moderate Democrats. Cruz said senators made a similar argument: “They said, ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The [Democrats] were the bad guys, the Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’”

He replied, Cruz told the crowd, “'Well, there is an alternative. You could just not be a bunch of squishes.'”

The filibuster effort failed, forcing moderate Democrats facing reelection in 2014 to vote on to the proposals. In the end, several Democrats balked and every Senate attempt at gun control went down. Cruz credited the campaign sparked by the letter. He also warned that he believes gun legislation will come up for a vote again.

As Paul did recently, Cruz also accused Obama of using victims of the Newtown tragedy as "political props."

In just a few months in office, Cruz has forged a reputation as an uncompromising, controversy-courting conservative. He's started to attract buzz as a potential presidential candidate in 2016. But he's also formed relationships with the GOP establishment, including serving as vice-chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"Sen. Cruz promised 26 million Texans that he would fight for conservative principles every single day, and that's exactly what he has done and will continue to do," a Cruz spokeswoman said after the senator's remarks. "Privately and publicly, he is urging Republicans to stand for principle, and he is encouraged that in recent months so many Republicans are standing up for liberty."

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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Rachel Weiner · April 29, 2013