- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2015

Sen. Ted Cruz brazenly tore into his own party’s leaders Friday, saying Republican rule in the Senate is hardly different than it was under Democrats, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to appease both parties with a compromise on the highway bill.

Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination, launched into a campaign-style speech from the floor, saying the leader lied to him when he said there wasn’t pact in the works to revive the federal Export-Import Bank, an agency that finances the sale of U.S. goods overseas and lapsed June 30.

“The majority leader looked at me and said there is no deal there is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal. Like St. Peter, he said it three times,” Mr. Cruz said, referring to an exchange in a closed-door party luncheon after the Senate debated President Obama’s trade agenda.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, announced Friday a compromise in which senators would get the chance to repeal Obamacare, “something nearly every Republican wants, and something we’ll continue to fight for,” and then to revive the Ex-Im bank, “something nearly every Democrat wants,” as they debate a six-year roads bill.

“Ex-Im shouldn’t be the only vote we take on this bill,” said Mr. McConnell, who opposes the bank. “And under the compromise I just filed, it won’t be.”

Yet Mr. Cruz, who says the bank doles out “corporate welfare” to companies that don’t need it, accused Mr. McConnell of presenting the Obamacare repeal as a smokescreen for allowing one on the bank.

“We’ll have a vote on repealing Obamacare,” he said. “There Republicans will all vote ‘yes.’ The Democrats will all vote ‘no.’ It will be at a 60-vote threshold. It will fail.”

His blistering speech set off a “Did that just happen?” type of reaction on Capitol Hill, both because it was a rare broadside from the floor of the august chamber, which prizes its comity, and because Mr. Cruz detailed an exchange from a private GOP session.

Mr. Cruz has never been shy about pushing back at his colleagues, though, and led a charge to defund Obamacare in the run-up to a 16-day government shutdown in fall 2013 that hurt Republicans in public-opinion polls. He frequently accuses his GOP colleagues of joining a “Washington cartel” that takes care of itself before regular Americans and abandons conservative principles.

“There is a profound disappointment among the American people because we keep winning elections and then we keep getting leaders who don’t do anything they promise,” Mr. Cruz said.

A spokesman for Mr. McConnell said the leader had no plans to respond to the Texas senator.

Facing a July 31 deadline to keep road projects moving, Mr. McConnell is hoping to move quickly on the highway package and its accompanying amendments. He scheduled a rare Sunday session for a procedural vote on his Obamacare measure.

It marks the first time the Senate will vote to repeal the health law in this Congress, although the GOP-authored budget resolution assumed full repeal of the law.

Mr. McConnell said the vote would counterbalance a proposal from Democrats to revive the bank, which he opposes.

But his offer on health care clearly failed to appease vociferous opponents of the bank.

“I agree with Senator [Harry] Reid when he said the Obamacare amendment is a cynical amendment,” Mr. Cruz said. “Of course it is. It is empty showmanship.”

Indeed, Democrats were angry, but for a different reason. They said it’s time for Republicans to lay down their swords on Obamacare, citing benefits for million of people and its legal victories.

“The highest courts in the land have upheld this, including the Supreme Court on two separate occasions,” Mr. Reid, the minority leader from Nevada, said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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