Wednesdayâs chaos led to calls for Cruzâs resignation from Texas Democrats. But Cruz says he âainât going anywhere.â
by Alex Samuels and Patrick Svitek
Jan. 7, 20218 hours ago
The junior U.S. senator from Texas was calling in to a friendly conservative radio host â Mark Levin â and setting up Wednesdayâs vote to be the kind of intraparty line in the sand that has powered his political rise.
By then, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had made clear that he opposed objections to certifying Joe Bidenâs election as the next president. But Cruz and 10 other GOP senators announced they would still object unless Congress agreed to an âemergency auditâ of the presidential election results.
Cruz told Levin that there were some conservatives âwho in good conscienceâ disagree with his view of Congressâ role in certifying the presidential election results, and that he had talked to them and did not fault them. On the other hand, Cruz said, there were âsome Republicans who are not conservatives but who are piously and self-righteously preeningâ when it comes to the issue.
In spearheading the group of objectors, Cruz arguably upstaged U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, who announced his plan to object three days earlier â and, like Cruz, is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender.
But on Wednesday, what Cruz might have thought was a savvy political play took an alarming turn: Supporters of President Donald Trump stormed and ransacked the U.S. Capitol while lawmakers were considering Cruzâs objection. Three people suffered medical emergencies during the siege and died; their deaths were in addition to another woman who was shot by a Capitol police officer.
Cruz denounced the violence but incurred a fierce backlash from critics in both parties, who said his drive to question the election results â and appease the president and his supporters ahead of a possible 2024 run â helped fan the flames of anger among Trump supporters. Prominent Texas Democrats called for him to resign. Many others suggested heâd played an inciting role in one of the darkest days in modern American history.
âHis challenge of the Electoral College votes helps him among core Trump supporters but risks further damaging his political standing among rank-and-file Republicans like moderates and suburban swing voters who have traditionally formed a stable winning coalition for Republicans in Texas and nationally,â said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, who added, âSiding with Trump is risky.â
In recent months, Cruz has positioned himself as one of the most prominent and vocal Trump supporters casting doubt on the election. Two days after Election Day, Cruz charged that Philadelphia officials were not allowing election observers to watch the counting of votes in the swing state, even though Trumpâs lawyers conceded that they had been allowed in the room.
In December, Trump asked Cruz if he would be willing to argue a long shot case filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate the election results in states like Pennsylvania in the event that it reached the U.S. Supreme Court. (Cruz agreed, but the high court ultimately said Texas did not have standing to bring the case.)
And in the days ahead of Wednesdayâs certification, Cruz raised concerns about how many people believed fraud had occurred in the election, without acknowledging the role he had played in encouraging those beliefs.
âWeâve seen in the last two months unprecedented allegations of voter fraud,â Cruz said in an early January interview on Fox News. âAnd thatâs produced a deep, deep distrust of our democratic process across the country. I think we in Congress have an obligation to do something about that.â
âProposing a commission at this late date â which has zero chance of becoming reality â is not effectively fighting for President Trump,â U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, tweeted. âIt appears to be more of a political dodge than an effective remedy.â
As people stormed the Capitol building, Cruz insisted on Twitter that violence âis ALWAYS wrongâ and called the attack a âdespicable act of terrorism and a shocking assault on our democratic system.â
Those storming the Capitol need to stop NOW. The Constitution protects peaceful protest, but violenceâfrom Left or Rightâ is ALWAYS wrong.And those engaged in violence are hurting the cause they say they support.
It didnât help that Cruz on Wednesday was fundraising off his Electoral College challenge, with some money-seeking texts hitting phones as Trump supporters wreaked havoc at the Capitol. (An aide to Cruz said the messages were sent âfrom a firmâ and not approved by Cruz to be sent.) To Cruzâs critics, including those within his own party, it was emblematic of the kind of naked political ambition that they have long abhorred about him.
âThe Cruz effort had nothing to do with making some determination of whether or not there was fraud to reverse the outcome of the election and only to do with 2024 and the presidential primary,â said Jerry Patterson, a Republican former state land commissioner who is open about his unhappiness with Trump, but conceded that heâs voted for Cruz in past elections.
âThatâs why I could never get back into politics anymore. Iâm sick and tired of the bullshit. And thatâs what it was,â he said.
âYou have some senators who, for political advantage, were giving false hope to their supporters [and] misleading them to believe somehow yesterdayâs actions in Congress could reverse the results of the election,â U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who is also seen as a possible 2024 contender, said in a TV appearance on Fox without directly naming Cruz. âThat was never going to happen yet these senators, as insurrectionists literally stormed the Capitol, were sending out fundraising emails.â
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, the GOPâs 2012 nominee for president, raised similar frustrations on the Senate floor Wednesday night, without mentioning Cruz or other objectors by name.
âI ask my colleagues: Do we weigh our own political fortunes more heavily than we weigh the strength of our Republic, the strength of our democracy and the cause of freedom? What is the weight of personal acclaim compared to the weight of conscience?â
To be clear, Cruz received backup from his own party. While his initial coalition did not hold, he was still joined by several colleagues in objecting to the certification of the results in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Dozens of House members, including many Texans, also objected in both cases.
The stateâs senior senator, John Cornyn, split decisively from Cruz, announcing he would not object in a lengthy letter to Texans on Tuesday, specifically pooh-poohing Cruzâs emergency audit proposal. That contrast in particular heartened some Cruz supporters.
âTed Cruz will be a stronger force in the Texas GOP than John Cornyn because of the way he has handled the last 30 days and because he doesnât answer to the same political elite that Cornyn does,â said Luke Macias, a consultant for some of the Texas Legislatureâs farthest-right members. âDemocratsâ insane calls for Cruz to step down have only made him politically stronger.â
Democrats, meanwhile, were apoplectic over his role. Two of the stateâs best-known Democrats, Joaquin and JuliÃ¡n Castro, called on Cruz to resign, as did the state Democratic Party. Cruzâs old nemesis Beto OâRourke emailed supporters calling for âaccountability and consequenceâ against the Texas senator, who defeated OâRourke in a Senate race in 2018.
âSen. Cruz, you must accept responsibility for how your craven, self-serving actions contributed to the deaths of four people yesterday. And how you fundraised off this riot,â tweeted U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York. âBoth you and Senator Hawley must resign. If you do not, the Senate should move for your expulsion.â
In Cruzâs Houston hometown, activists lined the streets on Thursday, calling for his resignation while standing outside of a downtown skyscraper that houses one of Cruzâs offices.
But to detractors asking him to leave Congress, Cruz responded curtly Thursday afternoon, âSorry, I ainât going anywhere.â
While Cruz himself doesnât appear to have any regrets for his role in inciting an insurrection â on Thursday he said he would do it all over again if he had to â his colleagues might not easily forgive under a new presidential administration.
[email protected] interviews @SenTedCruz after yesterday’s riot at the U.S. Capitol.Fine: “If you had it to do all over again, would you?”Cruz: “Yes. Absolutely. I would object and urge that we should follow the law and follow the Constitution.”More on @NBCDFW at 5 & 6. pic.twitter.com/eKqHHeufp4
Patterson, for one, thinks Cruzâs future political prospects hinge on where Republicans go in the next four years â and whether they remain loyal to Trump.
âThere was a reset yesterday of politics in America â at least I hope and pray there was,â Patterson said.
Disclosure: The University of Houston has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
Jan. 7, 2021
Updated: Jan. 6, 2021
Updated: Jan. 7, 2021
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News – Ted Cruz faces fierce blowback after his objection to Joe Bidenâs victory and riot at the U.S. Capitol