Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been on the losing side of every vote the Senate has taken in his young career — the only senator who can claim that distinction, boosting his anti-establishment credentials and earning him rave reviews from grass-roots conservatives.
The 42-year-old tea party favorite entered the Senate chamber last week at the bottom with his first two votes and walked away with nine more losses under his belt.
So far, he is 0-for-2013 — he has been on the losing end of 11 votes — and that’s just fine with the Texas Republican.
The way he sees it, a strikeout in the Democrat-controlled Senate is a home run for his constituents back home.
“Sen. Cruz promised the voters of Texas he would take principled stands when it comes to fiscal responsibility and protecting America’s sovereignty,” said Sean Rushton, a Cruz spokesman. “He didn’t come to Washington to make friends; he came to help save the country. Sen. Cruz is proud of his votes and will continue to stand up for America and the Constitution.”
Since taking the oath of office a month ago, Mr. Cruz has signaled his opposition to bills with a slight wave of his hand, opposing procedural changes in the Senate, the $50 billion Superstorm Sandy relief package and Sen. John F. Kerry’s confirmation to be secretary of state.
Last week, he opposed the Republican-controlled House’s plan to waive the nation’s borrowing limit for nearly four months while backing bills that called for the additional borrowing to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Tim Scott of South Carolina sit in a close second on the biggest-loser leaderboard after supporting Mr. Kerry’s confirmation. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, John Cornyn of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin are tied for third.
Since arriving in Washington, Mr. Cruz, a debate champion at Princeton University, Harvard law graduate and former clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, has stuck with the same basic conservative message that he espoused on his way to winning his seat in the November election.
Speaking at the National Review Institute “Future of Conservatism” summit last month, Mr. Cruz said that conservatism is “on the verge of a rebirth” and that the movement’s primary goal should be thwarting the Obama administration’s agenda on gun rights, spending, taxes and government regulation.
“If conservatives stand together, we can stop that; and stopping bad things that would harm this country, that would harm Americans, is a major victory for the next two years,” Mr. Cruz said.
Back on Capitol Hill, Mr. Cruz introduced a bill to repeal President Obama’s health care law and knocked Democrats for pushing gun-control laws in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Conn. He argued that restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms would increase crime.
At a confirmation hearing Thursday, Mr. Cruz grilled former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican tapped by Mr. Obama to be secretary of defense, challenging his support of Israel and his view of America’s role on the world stage.
“Your past statements as a United States senator demonstrate greater antagonism for the nation of Israel than any member of this body and also demonstrate a greater willingness to stand against sanctions, stand against military action, stand against any strong position against Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, terrorists,” Mr. Cruz said.
Although many Republicans are expected to grit their teeth and approve the Hagel nomination, there is speculation that Mr. Cruz, who was unsatisfied with some of Mr. Hagel’s answers last week, may do more than just vote “no.”
Asked whether he would filibuster Mr. Hagel’s nomination, Mr. Cruz said in a statement that “we should do everything possible to ensure the Senate has the information necessary to make an informed decision.”
Robert P. George, who advised Mr. Cruz in the 1990s when he was at Princeton, said he is “not a bit surprised” by Mr. Cruz’s voting record. He described the senator as a “conviction politician” and someone who has always thought for himself.
“He considers what he thinks is right and will follow his conscience wherever that leads,” said Mr. George, founding director of Princeton’s James Madison Program.
The approach has won him kudos from conservatives and tea partyers — many of whom are warming to the notion that Mr. Cruz should run for president in 2016.
Others, though, say Mr. Cruz is turning into the sleeping giant of the Republican Party’s “just say ‘no’” crowd.
“He may be standing for principle, but the fact is he has proven to be an entirely irrelevant to the Senate to date,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and longtime senior aide in the Senate. “If I was one of his constituents, I would be demanding his salary back.”