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Politics

Sen. Ted Cruz Was At The Center Of The Capitol Drama. How Will It Affect His Political Future?

Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz in Congress.
Andrew Harnik
/
Associated Press
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., left, and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, speak after Republicans objected to certifying the Electoral College votes from Arizona, during a joint session of the House and Senate to confirm the electoral votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 6, 2021.

Cruz was one of the senators who objected to the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes. He said he bears no responsibility for the riot and chaos that ensued on Wednesday.

Senator Ted Cruz played a key role in this week’s drama at the U.S. Capitol. Yet he denies responsibility and is aiming blame solely at President Trump. Like Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, Cruz is courting Trump’s loyal base and getting blowback.

A day after Wednesday's riot at the Capitol, Cruz spoke to KHOU in Houston.

"Well, I think the president’s rhetoric was irresponsible, I think it was reckless, and I don’t think it was remotely helpful," Cruz said.

President Trump has continuously lied about widespread voter fraud, and has lost dozens of court cases attempting to overthrow November’s election. And yet here was Cruz in Georgia about a week ago, campaigning for fellow Republican senators.

"But look, are they going to try to steal it, yes, but I’ll tell you what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna win by a wide enough margin, ain’t nobody’s stealing the state of Georgia," Cruz said to a cheering crowd.

Those Republicans didn’t win in Georgia.

Then, Cruz objected to the ceremonial counting of Electoral College votes. He exaggerated the results of a poll showing some Americans are concerned the election was rigged. And then rioters surged into the Capitol, delaying the ceremony for hours. Cruz told KHOU he was not responsible for the escalation, not even, quote, “remotely.”

Gilberto Hinojosa is Chair of the Texas Democratic Party. He notes Cruz has a prestigious legal pedigree: Ivy League education, a former state Solicitor General, and someone who’s argued before the U.S. Supreme Court multiple times.

"He knows better than this," Hinojosa said. "Yet he did it knowing full well that what he was doing was wrong and to me, that disqualifies him from continuing to be a United States Senator, and he needs to resign. He needs to resign right away."

At least one Democrat in the U.S. Senate and several in Texas have also called for his resignation. And disgust with his actions hasn’t come only from Democrats. Cruz’s former chief of staff, Chip Roy, is now a Republican congressman from south central Texas. He didn’t mention Cruz by name, but he spoke after lawmakers returned Wednesday night post-riot.

"I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and I will not bend its words into contortions for purposes of political expediency," Roy said.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney said those who objected to the vote counting will be considered “complicit” in the attack. But it’s uncertain whether a price will be paid by Cruz, who isn’t new to pushing at the seams of American government. In his first year as senator, in 2013, he encouraged hardline tactics that led to a government shutdown, then voted against a budget deal to reopen it.

"Mr. President, I rise in opposition to this deal that does not serve the best interest of the men and women each of us represent," he said of that deal back in 2013.

It was a doomed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Cruz denied responsibility for the shutdown ahead of a tough re-election campaign, and won.

Jim Henson at the University of Texas at Austin says Cruz is popular with the party base in Texas, where leaders have long pushed the voter fraud myth.

"Republicans in Texas have spent the better part of the last two decades claiming that elections in Texas were subject to fraud, abuse and dishonesty," Henson said. "You know without presenting any real evidence that this was happening on a scale that merited the fear that they were cultivating among their voters."

But overturning the results of the 2020 election was never Cruz’ real goal, Henson says. If Trump leaves office saddled with blame for the riot, that’ll be better for Cruz’s second run at the presidency.

"Ted Cruz doesn’t want Donald Trump to somehow emerge from this with a second term any more than does any Democrat," he said.

Cruz’s senate office didn’t respond to an email seeking an interview.

Gilberto Hinojosa says Texas Democrats won’t let voters forget.

"You will continue to see him do these kinds of things," Hinojosa said. "And every single time he does, we will remind people that this man’s ambitions cause him not to act in their interests but only in his interest."

And Cruz’s interest could be twice as large in 2024, because he doesn’t have to choose which race to run. Texas law allows him to simultaneously be on the ballot for both president and U.S. Senate.

Got a tip? Email Bret Jaspers at bjaspers@kera.org. You can follow Bret on Twitter @bretjaspers.

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