Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Ted Cruz: The Education of an Unrepentant Freshman

Thursday’s Senate Judiciary Committee meeting may be remembered as this year’s high-water mark for those promoting the most ambitious aspects of the Obama gun control package. It will also be remembered as a milestone in the education of an unrepentant Ted Cruz.

During his first 10 weeks as the junior senator from Texas, Cruz has leveraged almost every available opportunity to burnish his reputation as the most intellectually rigorous and rhetorically forceful of this year’s tea party congressional newcomers. So far, his strategy for achieving quick and approving prominence on the right seems to be working; Cruz has been selected to deliver the keynote speech on Saturday night at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

At the same time, his confrontational style has rattled many of the more senior Republicans in the Senate. They worry that his reliance on pedantic questioning and unsubstantiated claims — both on full display during his battle against Chuck Hagel as secretary of Defense — will not only harm his effectiveness as a policymaker but also drag the bar for senatorial comity to a new low.

Democrats are eager for that first GOP concern to be proved true. And they share the other anxiety about the coarsening of Capitol discourse. So they are becoming ever-more openly scornful toward the 42-year-old former Texas solicitor general. Twice in as many days, two of the best-respected and longest-serving Senate Democrats made it plain to Cruz that, after less than three months, they were losing patience with his impertinence.

Cruz’s response to both California’s Dianne Feinstein and Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski was, in effect, too bad for you.

“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein bristled after Cruz asked her a seemingly rhetorical question about whether a Bill of Rights that would prohibit sales of specified weapons would also allow a finite roster of books to be outlawed or a list of people who could be searched at will.  “I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution,” she continued. “I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture.”

After her bill to restrict new sales of semi-automatic rifles was approved, Feinstein sought to be magnanimous, apologizing to Cruz for her tone, if not her text. “You sort of got my dander up,” she said. But Cruz would only go so far in return. While he tipped his hat to Feinstein’s commitment to her cause, he declared it “unfortunate that a question about the Constitution provokes such a strenuous response.”

The Wednesday stare-down with Mikulski was not as heated because it was all about the time-honored norms of behavior on the Senate floor. But those with an ear for the sounds of annoyance inside the world’s greatest deliberative body could not mistake Mikulski’s message: It was time for Cruz to learn to mind his manners.

“There was no agreement to do round-robin here,” Mikulski replied after Cruz asked permission to take a break from his own spending bill speech so that one of his best GOP friends, Utah’s Mike Lee, could jump in line and avoid a scheduling crunch. “I wish to follow the traditional regular order, where the senator from Texas, the proponent of the amendment, has full and ample time, then other senators respond, and then Sen. Lee. I am not going to make a scene, but that is the way we usually do it.”

Did Cruz reply to that brushback by ending his speech, making life easier for his buddy and sending a signal that he’d learned a lesson? No. He said he had 10 minutes’ more talking to do, and he kept right on going.

  • Mitch

    Ted Cruz just doesn’t know his place. Too uppity for my liking. He should be slapped down by the media. Good article.

    • sheesh

      uppity? sheesh…

      • Halcyan

        yeah, not a good word choice :-/

    • itsmesteph11

      Cruz is the future of congress. Those idiots need to get used to actually answering the peoples questions.

    • Larry Arnold

      When I send someone to D.C. to represent me, ‘uppity’ is a feature, not a bug. Particularly when he’s speaking up for my civil rights.

  • conservativechick

    Because the Constitution clearly states that only those who have been around the Senate long enough to be dinosaurs get to represent the people of their district.
    What a tool you are Mr Hawkings. The people are to be represented by their Senators, period.
    Term limits would be the best thing that could happen to this country. And 75% of the people agree.

    • colincb

      Did the Founders agree that term limits should be in the Constitution?

      • conservativechick

        If our government were to restrain itself within the boundaries set by the Constitution, term limits would be immaterial.

        • colincb

          That’s a no.

          • conservativechick

            Which part is a no? Term limits or the Constitution?
            I know you libs have a great dis-regard for the Constitution.

          • colincb

            The Founders considered the necessity of term limits and rejected it. Right?

    • Profk

      we have term limits—-they are called elections.

  • sheesh

    waiting for my comment to be moderated re feinstien blathering…

    • Halcyan

      feel like a victim much?

  • sheesh
    • sheesh

      on this board, everybody knows feinstein was blathering..

  • jackieaxe

    Diane Feinstein was rude. Cruz brought up a legitimate point at a legimate time in a legitimate way. A who-the-hell-are-you lecture was uncalled for.

  • Mark Benford

    So, your point is, that Feinstein knowing that there were similar limits on free speech, but not being able to come up with an example on the spot is worse than Cruz’s ignorance of the fact that his question was BS because of the limits on free speech like child pornography.

    • Larry Arnold

      Apples and oranges. Limitations on free speech restrict the use of speech in illegal or disruptive manners, not on the possession of the means of free speech. The First Amendment analogy to Feinstein’s AWB would be bans on the possession of video cameras and limitations on the capacity of memory cards, which would be blatantly unconstitutional.
      The Second Amendment analogy to child pornography would be a law against using a gun to commit rape, which I believe is already illegal.

  • itsmesteph11

    Lol trying is the operative word. An unsuccessful try at that. Feinstein only reminded Americans that she and many other lawmakers have been in Washington way too long. Cruz was not disrespectful and Feinstein was a typical lib , blabbering on without answering his question. What is it with libs?

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