Do Politicians Lie? Let's Ask Mark Pocan (D-WI) And Ted Cruz (R-TX)
When Mark Pocan (D-WI): said "Politicians too often say one thing but actually do another," he was explaining how magic tricks are like what politicians do in Washington. Few people know that Mark is actually a magician himself and used to do magic shows to put himself through college. Yesterday, though, in the other chamber, Texas' right-wing extremist Ted Cruz went crazy on the floor, accusing his own caucus leader, Mitch McConnell, of lying.
A politician lying? Politicians lie as a matter of course... lie for a living. And Mitch McConnell is a closet case whose entire life is based on a giant lie. But that isn't what Cruz was crying about. What ticked him off enough to break Senate rules and impugn the integrity of a fellow senator was not that McConnell's a habitual liar but that McConnell lied to him personally. Manu Raju:
In a scathing floor speech, the Texas firebrand accused the Senate majority leader of breaking his word to him and the rest of the GOP conference over McConnell’s plans for the controversial Export-Import Bank, the country’s chief export credit agency. In Cruz’s telling, McConnell privately promised him and other Republicans that “there was no deal” with a handful of senators who were seeking to revive the bank in exchange for their votes to advance a major trade bill in May.The latest GOP primary polling shows Cruz trailing badly. He is the first choice of just 4% of likely Republican voters-- tied with Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul. He certainly needed something to get him some national press, and perhaps his full-bore hissy fit against poor Miss McConnell will do it for him.
McConnell, he said, became “visibly angry” when Cruz challenged him on the matter during a meeting in May.
“Like St. Peter,” Cruz said, “he repeated it three times. He said, ‘The only thing I told the proponents of the Export-Import Bank is like any other senator in this body, they could offer any amendment they liked on an any amendable vehicle, but I gave them nothing.’”
That day in late May, Cruz said his staff informed him that McConnell was “lying” to him, but he said he believed the Senate GOP leader that “he wasn’t lying to us.”
But after McConnell took procedural steps Friday to move to a proposal to revive the Ex-Im bank, Cruz said on the Senate floor: “I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie.”
“What we saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over again was a simple lie,” said Cruz, a fierce opponent of the bank. “The majority and minority leader, arm-in-arm again, should not team up against the American taxpayers.”
The attack is unusual even for Cruz, who has made his battle with Senate Republicans a centerpiece of his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Senators tend to avoid directly calling out specific senators on the Senate floor-- particularly from their own party and especially their own party leader. Senate rules say, “no senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another senator or to other senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.”
Asked to comment, McConnell smiled and walked away. Sen. John Cornyn, a fellow Texas Republican and McConnell’s chief deputy, said he was reviewing Cruz’s remarks and would not comment further. Sen. Mike Lee, a close Cruz ally who is wooing the GOP establishment to ward off any primary threat in Utah next year, also declined to comment.
The bank has become a flashpoint in the battle between the GOP’s business and tea party wings. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce argues that the bank’s support is essential in promoting American exports and supporting more than a million U.S. jobs. But conservative groups like Heritage Action and the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity argue that the bank is nothing more than corporate welfare that picks winners and losers and should be disbanded.
The GOP versus GOP fight led to the expiration of the 80-year-old bank’s charter in July, preventing it from backing any new loans. But a bipartisan majority in the Senate is pushing hard to revive it, putting McConnell in the crosshairs.
McConnell, who opposes the bank, vowed to three senators who strongly support the bank-- Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray-- that he would allow a vote on the bank’s charter during high-stakes negotiations over the trade bill in May. After those assurances, those three senators voted to advance the fast-track bill, which eventually became law and will pave the way for the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership.
With Congress now headed to an August recess, the bank’s proponents are looking to find any legislative vehicle that will revive it. The last remaining vehicle is a highway bill that must pass before the August recess. So McConnell on Friday filed a cloture motion to break a filibuster and bring up the Export-Import Bank measure on Sunday. He also filed cloture on a full-scale repeal of Obamacare, which could give him some political cover on the right after the backlash from his moves to allow the bank’s charter to be revived.
But since the Obamacare vote will fail to surmount a Democratic filibuster, Cruz lashed McConnell for “empty showmanship.”
During his speech, Cruz also strongly rebuked the GOP Senate majority’s record this Congress, rebutting McConnell’s argument that the new Republican majority has fulfilled its promises to voters.
“We’ve had a Republican majority in both houses of Congresses now for about six months. What has that majority done? First thing we did, in December, we passed a $1 trillion crominbus plan filled with pork and corporate welfare. Then this Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare, voted to fund President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty. And then the leadership rammed through the confirmation of Loretta Lynch as attorney general.”
Cruz added: “Madam President, which of those decisions would be one iota different if Harry Reid were still majority leader? Not a one. Not a one.”
He added that McConnell is “behaving” like Reid by limiting debate and amendments on the Senate floor, even arguing that the GOP leader did not put up a strong enough fight to push for Republican votes during debate over an Iran congressional review bill this past spring. Cruz recounted a private conversation in McConnell’s office over their dispute.
As he walked off the Senate floor, Cruz didn’t stop insulting McConnell.
He told reporters that he would try to force a procedural vote on an amendment to force Iran to recognize Israel’s right to exist and release the four American hostages held in Tehran. Forcing a procedural vote-- to overturn the ruling of the chair-- is another highly unusual move, particularly for a rank-and-file senator challenging his own leadership.
“I assume leadership is going to whip against that amendment,” Cruz said.
In the 15-minute press availability, Cruz was asked to produce evidence that McConnell is a liar. He sent aides to his Senate desk, and he circulated photos from the Senate floor of Graham and Cantwell huddling with McConnell and his deputies on the Senate floor during the tense vote on Trade Promotion Authority. Cruz said at a subsequent party lunch, he challenged McConnell “explicitly” to find out what deal they cut.
“If the majority leader is willing to lie to 54 Republicans to their face, when is willing to do so again?” Cruz said.