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.