Sen. Michael F. Bennet, typically a mild-mannered, congenial guy, on Thursday unleashed all of his furor over the partial government shutdown on Sen. Ted Cruz.
In a fiery exchange that played out on the Senate floor shortly before votes on two competing bills to reopen the government, Bennet (D-Colo.) raised his voice and seemed to let loose six years of pent-up ire directed at Cruz (R-Tex.) for leading an earlier shutdown.
When Cruz held up government funding in 2013 over his demand that Obamacare be defunded, Colorado was still reeling from floods that had ravaged the state. When the government shut down, the emergency funds from the federal government were paused.
So when Cruz finished giving a floor speech blaming Democrats for federal employees' furloughs and pushing a bill that would pay just the Coast Guard during the shutdown, Bennet had a harsh response.
“These crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for the first responders are too hard for me to take,” Bennet said, his arms crossed. Then his calm voice quickly elevated to a yell.
“Because when the senator from Texas shut this government down, my state was flooded,” he said. “It was underwater. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down. For politics. That he surfed to a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.” (Cruz actually won the Iowa caucuses.)
Bennet is a backbencher with little national prominence, but like many of his more well-known colleagues, has said he’s interested in running for president in 2020. Dressing down Cruz on C-SPAN is a surefire way to gain fans in the Democratic base.
The Democrat went on for nearly 25 minutes, pacing, his voice resuming its normal tone and then just as quickly going back to yelling about President Trump, the border wall, immigration policy, the Freedom Caucus.
He lamented that a comprehensive immigration bill that the Senate passed in 2013 couldn’t get a vote in the House, because of the “Hastert rule” requiring that a majority of the majority party be in favor of any bill brought to the floor.
“Because of the stupidest rule ever created, called the Hastert rule!” Bennet screamed. “Named after somebody who is in prison. That has allowed a minority of tyrants in the Congress” to control the agenda. (J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Republican speaker of the House from 1999 to 2007, pleaded guilty in 2015 to violating federal banking laws in connection with a hush-money payment and admitted that he had sexually molested teenage boys whom he had coached. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.)
Near the end of Bennet’s remarks, his voice level again, the senator said: “I don’t even know what day it is anymore of this record-long shutdown. But the pretext for it is an invention. It’s a creation of something in the president’s mind.”
When Bennet was finished, an aggrieved Cruz took back the floor. He lamented about Bennet’s “angry” speech attacking him personally.
“I will say in all of my time in the Senate, I don’t believe I have ever bellowed or yelled at a colleague on the Senate floor, and I hope I never do that,” Cruz said.
It may be true that Cruz has never yelled at another colleague. But as The Washington Post’s Paul Kane noted on Twitter, there was that time that he called Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a liar in a Senate floor speech.