Ted Cruz discussed the debt-ceiling fight and the 2014 midterms in an interview with CNN this week, explaining why he chose to filibuster the bill that staved off another shutdown this February — to the anger of his fellow Senate Republicans facing tough reelection campaigns.
He told Dana Bash:
"What Republican leadership said is we want this to pass, but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote no and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it. And listen, that sort of show vote, that sort of trickery to the - to the constituents is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating. In my view, we need to be honest with our constituents. And last week, what it was all about was truth and transparency. I think all 45 Republicans should have stood together and said of course not."
But, of course, the reason that many Senate Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling is because they didn't want a repeat of what happened the last time Cruz filibustered in October, when the government shut down for for two weeks, and the public blamed Republicans. With the midterms so close, and the majority in the Senate just close enough, scenarios like the one imagined by Cruz get back billing. Arizona Sen. John McCain told CNN this Sunday, "I understand where Sen. Cruz is coming from," but "there was no plan once we had taken the United States on the brink of this financial crisis that we were approaching."
On Feb. 10, 2014, congressional job approval stood at 10 percent.
Bash also asked Cruz about his fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who has a primary coming up on March 4 — the first of the midterms. He is facing multiple opponents, with two tea party candidates posing the most — if still minimal — danger to his bid. Regarding the debt-ceiling fight, Cruz said, "I like John Cornyn. He's a friend of mine. He and I have agreed on -- on the vast majority of issues. I disagree with him on this."
The effect Cruz's actions would have on the midterms proved the subtext for the entire interview, and when Bash asked him about it explicitly, he reiterated his comments from the beginning of the interview: if Republicans stood on principle (the implication being, "like Cruz did"), midterms would be a breeze.
"The Washington establishment think Republicans win elections by you don't stand for anything, you keep your head down, you don't rock the boat. You know what? Every time we do that we get clobbered in the polls."
On the other hand, Cruz also made it clear that his chief worry is not the Party writ large. "What I try to keep an eye on is I don’t work for the party bosses in Washington" he said. "I work for 26 million Texans."
Other subjects discussed over the course of the interview included Ted Nugent ("There's a reason… people listen to him.”), relations with Russia (“You know, if you look at the last five years, one of the tragic results is U.S. leadership has been receding. We have been shrinking.") and Secretary of State John Kerry's recent comments on climate change ("He sees a greater threat from your SUV than he does from Iranian nuclear weapons.")