The stage was set for fireworks this weekend during the rare Sunday Senate session that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called to push forward a major transportation funding bill, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) did not disappoint. The underlying must-pass bill, which finances federal construction programs on the nation’s roads, has become the focus of proxy battles on everything from Planned Parenthood to the Export-Import Bank. Sunday, however, Senate Republicans lined up behind McConnell to shut down Cruz’s attempts to wreak havoc on the legislation.
Here is what happened Sunday:
Hoping to appease conservatives upset that Export-Import Bank would likely be reauthorized, McConnell allowed an amendment to repeal Obamacare to advance to the floor. The amendment was largely symbolic because it was not expected to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. The final vote was 49-43 in favor of ending debate on the amendment and moving forward. The vote was along party lines. Eight senators did not vote.
Cruz tried and failed to procedurally outmaneuver McConnell, who had limited the amendments to the transportation bill to the Obamacare repeal measure and the Export-Import Bank reauthorization. Cruz attempted to force an amendment on the Iran deal, while his ally Mike Lee (R-UT) moved to advance a vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Embarrassingly, almost no Republicans supported either measure and after a voice vote, the Senate quickly moved on.
Sunday’s shenanigans started Friday, when Cruz took to the Senate floor and called McConnell a liar for allowing the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank to advance. The Texas senator showed no signs of backing down Sunday, even after his procedural antics failed. He talked to reporters for 13 minutes afterwards, as reported by the National Journal, using slights to describe McConnell like “so-called Republican leader” and one half of a “McConnell-Reid leadership team.” His presidential campaign also sent out fundraising emails throughout the fight, according to The Hill.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Senate president pro tempore, did not utter Cruz’s name during his floor remarks Sunday. But Hatch didn’t have to. Instead, he read Senate Rule 19, which prohibits senators from making accusations from the floor against other senators’ motives.
“Squabbling and sanctimony may be tolerated in other venues and perhaps on the campaign trail, but they have no place among colleagues in the United States Senate,” Hatch said.
Senior Republicans lined up behind McConnell in the fight, many of them speaking publicly against Cruz for using the Senate floor to wage war on the majority leader.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) suggested Cruz’s actions could render the Senate “lawless.”
“He will create a precedent that destroys the orderly consideration of amendments. There will be unlimited amendments; there will be chaos,” Alexander said, according to the Huffington Post.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) called Cruz “mistaken,” The National Journal reported, and Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) accused Cruz of acting in “violation of the rules.”
“It’s not how you treat a colleague regardless of how you feel,” he said, according to Politico.