Nihilist Ted, Back To The Back Bench
Published with permission from The Washington Spectator.
Ted Cruz, who ran for the Senate to run for president, is back in the Senate.
During his year on the national stage, Cruz’s singular accomplishment as a United States Senator, his one-man shutdown of the federal government over one issue, was correctly treated as newsworthy. Beyond that, and the over-reported story that Cruz is loathed by his Republican colleagues in the Senate, the media largely ignored the Texas Senator’s legislative record.
Yet the bills Cruz filed in his brief back bench tenure in the Senate are telling. And, never distinguished for his humility, Cruz will now recast himself as a party leader whose legislative agenda was endorsed by donors who backed him and citizens who cast their votes for him in primaries and caucuses.
After reading 55 bills and 115 resolutions filed by Cruz, here’s the takeaway. Cruz is a destroyer.
“Nihilist Ted,” Donald Trump might say.
Cruz’s first bill was revealing, and predictable. Filed within days after he took his oath of office, the ObamaCare Repeal Act, for which Cruz gathered 41 Senate cosponsors, is self-explanatory. It also fulfilled a campaign promise, played to the party groundlings on whom Cruz staked his future, and had no chance of passing.
Short and to the point at 232 words, the ObamaCare Repeal Act would have dismantled a law while providing nothing to replace it.
In the course of the 113th and 114th Congress, Cruz would sponsor seven bills targeting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, each as unsuccessful as the first.
Cruz’s bills are also reactive; they set out to do rather than undo. The bills, like the man, are antagonistic, and hostile to government—and to any minority the government might protect.
Anticipating the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage, Cruz filed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment allowing states to limit “marriage” to the “union of one man and one woman.”
George H.W. Bush vetoed the Motor Voter Act, Republican Senators filibustered it during the Clinton Administration, and finally agreed to a weakened version of a law intended to make it easier to register to vote.
Ted Cruz would have gutted it, with a one-sentence bill filed in response to a court challenge to an Arizona ballot initiative that targeted undocumented immigrants and as a consequence ethnically cleansed the voter rolls of 31,500 Arizonans, mostly Spanish surnamed.
In response to President Obama’s use of executive authority to defer the deportation of non-citizen U.S. residents who arrived in the country as children (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), Cruz drafted legislation that would have prohibited the use of federal funds to process applicants for the DACA program.
Another 2013 bill targeted the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children arriving at Texas border crossings to make asylum claims. Among other measures, Cruz’s “Protect Children and Families Through the Rule of Law Act” would have had the kids quickly deported, and provided federal funding to state governments deploying the National Guard to defend the border against immigrant children.
Cruz repeatedly promised that U.S. participation in the Iranian nuclear accord will end on his first day in office: “If I am elected president, on the very first day in office I will rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.”
Cruz targeted President Obama’s most consequential foreign policy initiative with a half-dozen bills, none of which got beyond referral to committee.
In the 113th Congress (2012–2014), for example, Cruz was author of a bill that would have curtailed the president’s authority to manage sanctions on Iran, and of a Senate resolution that defined conditions that had to be met before President Obama could meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
In the 114th Congress, he filed three additional bills, including an attempt to cut off funding to the United Nations—in protest of the ongoing negotiations with Iran.
Iran, for Cruz, was a foreign policy obsession. Beyond introducing bills and resolutions that would never see the light of the Senate chamber, he threatened to block all Obama appointees to the State Department. And he breached Congressional protocol by leading a House Republican rump caucus into a futile vote to require the president to submit the Iran accord to Congress— one of several offenses that resulted in former Speaker John Boehner describing Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and observing “I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
Cruz is almost as Obamaphobic as his father, an itinerant Cuban immigrant preacher with contrived pastoral credentials and a visceral hatred for the president.
Fourteen of the bills the itinerant preacher’s son filed in two sessions of Congress target laws the president has signed or his “unlawful” executive actions.
Cruz’s response to the centerpiece of Obama’s Climate Change Initiative, the Environmental Protection Agency rules imposing significant caps on greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants, was his most ambitious legislative effort: a 600-word bill that essentially strips the EPA of its regulatory authority.
The American Energy Renaissance Act does far more than “repeal greenhouse gas regulation,” which would render moot the new EPA clean-air regulations that mandate deep cuts in coal-fired-plant emissions. The bill is breathtakingly broad in scope, prohibiting, for example, any climate-change-mitigation measures enacted under the Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act.
Any EPA rules regulating carbon would be repealed, future regulations prohibited unless individually approved by Congress. Carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride could no longer be classified as pollutants.
The bill would permit the Keystone XL Pipeline, open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling, lock the secretary of energy into a leasing schedule for federal oil and gas rights, impose steep administrative fees on anyone who would contest a lease, right of way, or permit to drill, and deny legal fees to environmental non-profits that prevail in public-interest lawsuits.
Like all of Cruz’s bills (except two), it will not pass, but it’s what would become law with a larger, more extreme Republican Senate majority.
As was reported in ThinkProgress, Cruz chairs a Senate subcommittee that has oversight responsibility over NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
If you happened to be a Cruz constituent looking for a bill that would extend broadband Internet to small towns in rural Texas, expand a National Institutes of Health program in Houston’s Medical Center, or reinforce the seawall that stands between Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico, you’d have to look elsewhere.
For Ted Cruz, government is the problem, not the solution.
Photo: Former Republican presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) talks to the media outside of his Senate office on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria