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Cruz Makes No Apology For His Confrontational Style

company operating officer cruz watches as Cruz defends his activities -2-20-13.jpg
Shelley Kofler

Texas Senator Ted Cruz is offering no apologies for being an outspoken Washington newcomer who aggressively grills cabinet nominees. 

During a stop in Dallas Wednesday he said he hasn’t changed his style since being elected, and doesn’t plan to.

 With the work floor of the Texas Tool and Die shop as his backdrop, Senator Cruz launched into a media event, accusing President Obama of pushing policies that would hurt small businesses and workers.

Cruz singled out the president’s call for an increase in the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00, saying if enacted the wage increase would make it harder for young graduates, African-Americans and Hispanics to find jobs.

“Every time you jack up the minimum wage you drive those starting to climb the economic ladder out of a job,” he said.

But on another looming issue that pits jobs against budget cuts, Cruz was less defensive of workers.  

If congress and the president don’t reach a budget agreement in less than two weeks, $85 billion dollars in automatic federal cuts will begin.  The administration says the cuts known as sequestration would lead to layoffs for 10,000 teachers and education staff.  Tens of thousands of federal aviation employees including air traffic controllers would be furloughed, as would some meat inspectors, FBI agents, civilians in the defense department and many other federal employees.

Cruz lambasted the president for seeking to avoid the cuts by raising revenue through a tax rate increase for millionaires and an end to some tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

“The sequester level of spending cuts would be the first real spending cuts that would be put into place under President Obama and he is trying desperately not to have any spending cuts.” Cruz said. 

Cruz seemed to support sequestration with a few changes.

“I support spending cuts,” he said.  “Now, I think we should adjust the sequester so it doesn’t fall so heavily on the military so the cuts are more rational and allocated more sensibly.”

Cruz’s Texas trip follows his Washington debut where during his first six weeks he’s been referred to as an attack dog, disrespectful and too confrontational.

He raised eyebrows for voting against Hurricane Sandy relief and was one of just three senators to oppose John Kerry for Secretary of State.

But he really got tongues wagging last week when he aggressively grilled Former U.S. Senator Chuck Hagel, the president’s nominee for defense secretary. 

He questioned Hagel’s support for Israel and wondered whether some of his income came from companies that received money from Iran or North Korea.

“We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups,” Cruz said during a February 12 committee hearing on Hagel’s nomination.   

Florida Democrat Bill Nelson said Cruz had gone too far. 

“He basically has impugned the patriotism of the nominee,” said Nelson.

Even Republican John McCain chided Cruz saying, “Senator Hagel is an honorable man.  He served his country, and no one on this committee at any time should impugn his character or his integrity.”

Cruz says he was just doing his job.

“I don’t think I would be doing my job representing 26 million Texans if I didn’t go to Washington and ask the hard questions,” said Cruz, who gave every indication he’s just getting warmed up and plans to fulfill his campaign promise to “shake up” congress.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.