Ted Cruz, the first-term Republican senator from Texas, insists that he is focused on finding ways to create jobs, supporting a free-market economy, upholding the Constitution and repealing Obamacare.
The rest of it, such as the politics of who’s running for president in 2016, “will take care of itself,” Cruz said at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg Government today in the Washington Bureau.
Cruz also flatly predicts that President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law will be repealed, and suggests that the results of the November midterm elections — at a time when Americans are becoming increasingly opposed to Obamacare — will make it clear how that happens in Washington.
Cruz, son of a Cuban immigrant who arrived in Texas in the 1950s, also flatly opposes the citizenship for undocumented immigrants that the Senate has proposed and the White House wants. He says the House would be “foolish” to follow what is clearly a politically motivated move aimed at enhancing the Democratic Party in 2014 and 2016.
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In his party’s presidential primaries, Cruz said, he will be voting for “whoever is standing up and leading” the “fight for free-market principles” and the Constitution.
Might that be him, he was asked.
“Absolutely, I hope to do everything I can to lead the fight for free-market principles and the Constitution,” Cruz said, yet “my focus is just doing my job… The rest of it, the politics, will take care of itself.”
Cruz also suggests that it is “less likely” than people think that Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady, will be elected president in 2016.
A “lot of folks” are “convinced Hillary Clinton’s already been elected president,” Cruz says. “They’ve already measured the drapes, moved in, it’s a done deal, and everyone’s buying their tickets at the inaugural parade… I think that is far less likely to occur than is the conventional wisdom in Washington, D.C., and Manhattan.”
She will pay a price for Obama’s economic policies, he predicts — pointing to his father who left Cuba in 1956 and made 50 cents an hour washing dishes to put himself through the University of Texas. Under Obamacare, he says, his father’s work would have been cut to 30 hours a week.
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The senator at the center of the partial shutdown of the federal government in October, as he led a fight to delay or defund Obamacare’s implementation, allows that “this past year has been a roller-coaster.” That’s the result of “some major battles,” he said. “We have done our very best to stand for principle.”
One of the “enormous problems” in Washington, he says, is that lawmakers have stopped listening to the public. Back home, he says, “The No. 1 priority in Texas is restoring jobs and economic growth.” But in Washington, he says, “we’ve spent zero time” on that in the 13 months he’s been a member of the Senate. “It’s“no wonder,” he says,’ that public approval of Congress is running at 10 to 14 percent .
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On immigration reform, Cruz says, the way to proceed is “to focus on areas of bipartisan agreement.” That includes strengthening the borders and reforming and streamlining the legal process for immigration and visas. “Hands down, the most divisive element of the immigration debate is a pathway to citizenship” for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., he says. “It is profoundly unfair.”
“I think the House would be foolish to play into that game,” says Cruz, maintaining that any efforts he made to amend the Senate’s bill — such as vastly expanding the number of H1B visas available for businesses importing high-level workers — was rejected as a violation of the deal that senators had made with labor unions and corporations.
Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, one of the leaders of the group that reached a compromise on immigration in the Senate, “cut a deal with the union bosses,” Cruz says. Schumer, Cruz says, told him: “If there is no citizenship, there can be no reform.”
It became clear to him, he says, that there was “one over-arching political goal,” he says. “That really made clear the game the White House is playing.” The president and fellow Democrats “are looking for a political solution, not actually trying to solve the problem.”
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Asked if his criticism doesn’t get to the heart of the greater issue of compromise in Washington — that laws are passed as a result of one group or another giving and taking on issues, contrary to the “my way or the highway” approach for which he was criticized in the Obamacare debate during the government shutdown — Cruz put it this way:
This indeed is how deals are done in Washington.
“It is a series of lobbyists sitting in a room,” the senator says. “That’s much of what’s wrong with Washington — a handful of K Street lobbyists cutting a deal.”
“Often the parties get painted with convenient caricatures,” Cruz says — Democrats described as “reasonable” and “pragmatic,” Republicans labeled as “extremist” and “ideological.”
“It is the essence of pragmatism to acknowledge that Obamacare is not working, and we need to start over,” Cruz says.
“I believe we are going to repeal Obamacare,” he says. “The question of when and how you repeal it” will be answered after the elections. “If I’m right about what happens in November, Washington becomes a very different place in January 2015.”
Forecasting a public uprising over Obamacare that results in turning out lawmakers who support it, Cruz says, “It is the opposite of how deals are cut in Washington…. Our strategy — it was obvious it wasn’t going to work in Washington — was to take the case to the people.”
“It’s not a Washington strategy.”
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And those major battles aren’t finished, as the senator sees it.
Cruz says he will use the next debate over raising the federal debt ceiling as leverage for seeking another round of spending cuts.
“We should not raise the debt ceiling without significant structural reforms that address the out of control spending and out of control debt in Washington,” Cruz says. “The debt ceiling is the natural lever point to address the out-of-control spending and debt. It has historically been the most effective lever point to doing so.”