Ted Cruz Upstages Mitch McConnell

The Texas Republican briefly steals the spotlight from the minority leader.

 Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C) talks with reporters following a meeting at the White House between Republican members of the U.S. Senate with U.S. President Barack Obama on settling the debt limit and government funding issues October 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Michael Catalini
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Michael Catalini
Oct. 16, 2013, 10:47 a.m.

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Sen. Ted Cruz has be­come such a me­dia star that he trumps Mitch Mc­Con­nell—even as Mc­Con­nell went to the Sen­ate floor Wed­nes­day to an­nounce a deal to re­open gov­ern­ment and avoid de­fault. 

The fresh­man Re­pub­lic­an strode up to the mi­cro­phones in the Cap­it­ol, and me­dia crews im­me­di­ately flocked the ju­ni­or sen­at­or from Texas.

One cable TV net­work was so in­ter­ested in Cruz’s speech that it mo­ment­ar­ily cut away from Mc­Con­nell de­liv­er­ing the much-awaited news of an agree­ment and showed Cruz, prais­ing House Re­pub­lic­ans and vow­ing to fight on.

But Cruz’s seconds in the spot­light promp­ted a quiz­zical — and per­haps ac­ci­dent­al — re­sponse from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Why did we lea — ” Blitzer asked as CNN left cov­er­age of Mc­Con­nell for Cruz. Seconds later the screen flashed to Mc­Con­nell.

“All right. Let’s leave Ted Cruz. He’s ob­vi­ously op­posed to this deal,” Blitzer said.

In the Cap­it­ol there were whis­pers that Cruz’s news con­fer­ence, hap­pen­ing at the same time as Mc­Con­nell’s floor state­ment was a fin­ger in his eye, a way of say­ing — if there were ever any doubt — that Cruz op­posed the deal.

In one turn of phrase, Cruz re­pu­di­ated the Sen­ate deal, praised House con­ser­vat­ives and fore­shad­owed fights to come over Obama­care.

“If the Amer­ic­an people con­tin­ue to rise up, I be­lieve the House will con­tin­ue to listen to the Amer­ic­an people and I hope in kind the Sen­ate will be­gin to listen to the Amer­ic­an people also,” he said.

Cruz’s col­leagues, though, soun­ded weary of the polit­ic­al in­fight­ing and reasoned that the deal saved the coun­try from eco­nom­ic ru­in.

“It’s time to act like adults. It’s time to be an adult,” said Sen. Or­rin Hatch, R-Utah, leav­ing the closed-door meet­ing. “I’ve only been here 37 years, but I’ve been in these po­s­i­tions be­fore and soon­er or later the adults have to come for­ward and do what’s right, do what’s best un­der the cir­cum­stances.”

Re­pub­lic­ans also praised Mc­Con­nell for com­ing up with a deal, that they said was the best that could be had un­der the cir­cum­stances.

“I think he’s a great lead­er,” Hatch said. “He’s one of the bright­est guys who has ever sat in the Sen­ate, in the Con­gress, and there’s no ques­tion he’s a guts, tough, smart guy. And he be­lieves in the coun­try.”

For his part, Mc­Con­nell fo­cused on the pos­it­ive: re­open­ing of the gov­ern­ment, avoid­ance of de­fault, and pre­sum­ably an end to the pun­ish­ment Re­pub­lic­ans have been tak­ing in the polls — and a re­uni­fic­a­tion of the party.

“Now it’s time for Re­pub­lic­ans to unite be­hind our oth­er cru­cial goals,” he said.

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