After Railing Against Loretta Lynch, Ted Cruz Misses The Vote On Her Confirmation
For months, Ted Cruz said the nomination of Loretta Lynch must be blocked. Then, he failed to show up when the Senate voted on her nomination.
Two months ago, Texas Senator Ted Cruz wrote a piece for Politico in which he said that Loretta Lynch, then the President’s nominee for Attorney General, had displayed a level of support for “lawlessness” that disqualified her from being Attorney General. Today, as the Senate was debating the nomination, Cruz again spoke out against her but when it came time for the vote to be taken, the Junior Senator from Texas was nowhere to be seen:
Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz argued against nominating Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, calling her unsuitable for the job.
“I wanted to see a new Attorney General who would be faithful to law, but her answers made that impossible,” Cruz said of Lynch’s confirmation hearing, saying in a 10-minute speech on the Senate floor that she had “embraced the lawlessness” of Eric Holder’s tenure.
Then he missed the final vote on her nomination — the only senator to do so.
“He voted for cloture, that was the vote that mattered,” said Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler. “He made the case against her, he voted against her in cloture and he didn’t prevail.”
RealClearPolitics Congressional Reporter Rebecca Berg reported on Twitter that Cruz’s absence was due to the fact that he was leaving town early in order to appear at a fundraiser for his Presidential campaign in Las Vegas:
Here’s why Cruz had to fly back to Texas before the final Lynch vote… pic.twitter.com/BCUt2cbkED
— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) April 23, 2015
This isn’t the first time that Cruz has missed votes or Committee hearings since becoming a Senator, though, it’s a habit that predates his entrance into the Presidential race:
Ted Cruz came to Washington two-and-a-half years ago pledging to be the anti-senator. But he’s been more like the no-show senator.
The Texas Republican seriously lags most of his colleagues in attending hearings and casting votes in what has been a Senate career long on rhetoric and short on Senate business.
He’s skipped the vast majority of Armed Services Committee hearings, is below-average in attendance on his other major committees and ranks 97th during the first three months of this year in showing up for roll call votes on the Senate floor.
It’s a record that Cruz himself seemed to proudly telegraph when he was running for office. Appearing before the Houston Pachyderm Club in the summer of 2012, he answered a charge by a Texas newspaper that he wouldn’t get along with his colleagues or committee chairs by telling the crowd, “Guilty as charged.”
His attendance record is so poor that his just-launched presidential campaign could be a referendum, as several senior colleagues suggested, on the proper responsibilities of a senator.
In his first two years in the Senate, Cruz attended just 17 of 50 public Armed Services Committee hearings for which there are transcripts — the second-to-worst attendance record on the 26-member panel. He skipped more hearings than former Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado, who lost reelection bids last year after being criticized for their poor attendance records.
On Cruz’s other two major committees, transcripts point to a similar pattern. Cruz attended four of the 12 Judiciary Committee hearings during the previous 113th Congress for which there are official transcripts available. It’s a small sample, but the average senator attended six.
Cruz’s aides say he attended half of the Judiciary full-committee hearings held during the 113th Congress — 20 of 40 — but their analysis doesn’t include the many executive business meetings and judicial confirmation hearings held by the panel. His aides’s numbers are also impossible to verify because there are no official transcripts for most Judiciary hearings.
On the Commerce Committee, Cruz participated in just three of the 25 full-committee hearings during the 113th Congress for which there are official transcripts. The average committee member participated in nearly seven.
He also missed 21 of 135 roll call votes during the first three months of this year, the third-worst record among all senators — skipping votes on aid for Israel, student loans and human trafficking, among others. According to a February analysis by the website Vocativ, Cruz had the fifth-worst record among current senators when measured over the course of their careers. Another website, GovTrack, put him in the bottom 20th percentile for the 113th Congress, covering all of 2013 and 2014.
Cruz’s communications director, Amanda Carpenter, attributed the missed votes during the 113th Congress to Cruz’s trip to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral and a Fort Hood memorial in Texas, along with delayed flights and other reasons.
Last month, Cruz dismissed concerns about all the Armed Services Committee hearings he’s missed over the past few months by saying he’s been busy planning a presidential campaign. But a POLITICO review has found that his attendance problems date back to his first few months as a senator in 2013, when he skipped congressional hearings on immigration, the war in Afghanistan and across-the-board spending cuts.
Cruz, for his part, seems almost to advertise his poor attendance as a sign of his willingness to buck the system.
“Sen. Cruz remains incredibly active on the issues important to the 27 million Texans he represents and takes care to make sure his constituents know where he stands on these matters,” Carpenter said in a statement. “In a short time, Sen. Cruz has become a leading voice in our debates about commerce, constitutional rights and national security and will continue advocating ways to make Americans more prosperous and free.”
Votes and hearings aren’t the only measure of a senator’s performance, she said, explaining that Cruz also “regularly meets with constituents and Texas organizations, introduces legislation, offers amendments, goes on CODELS, writes letters, issues statements and engages in other actions in his capacity as a U.S. senator.”
Being present for votes and attending hearing may not be the only thing a Senator does, but they are most assuredly the most important part of what they do. Indeed, many of the things that Carpenter cites here, such as meeting with constituents, are matters that can easily be handled by staff members and other employees in a Senators office, leaving their boss free to, well, do the things he was actually elected to do. Many of the other things that are cited don’t really pass the credibility test either. Congressional junkets are hardly a crucial part of a Senators job, for example, and with rare exceptions the letters and other written materials that go out with a member’s name on them were in fact drafted by staff rather than by the Congressman or Senator themselves. Besides, it seems absurd to suggest that Cruz was too busy to go to committee hearings and attend floor votes because he was too busy writing letters and meeting with the representatives of some civic organization from some small town in Texas. While both of those have their place, one would think that the voters in Texas would be more concerned with whether or not Senator Cruz is doing is job rather than whether he was present in the office when a senior citizens group arrived to present him with a quilt.
So, what else is it that the Senator might be doing? Well, you probably won’t be surprised:
For Cruz, another priority has been speaking out on conservative causes around the country — a clearly different way to leverage his influence as a senator and, not coincidentally, pump up his name recognition among the kind of activists who can propel a campaign for higher office.
For instance, on March 6, 2014, Cruz was at National Harbor, Md., roaring to an audience of defense-minded conservative voters organized by Breitbart News about U.S. missteps in dealing with Iran, Israel and the bloody civil war in Syria. “What this administration doesn’t understand is that weakness and appeasement only invite military conflict,” he thundered.
Meanwhile, back on Capitol Hill that day, other members of the Armed Services Committee were asking tough questions of the top U.S. general in the Middle East, covering violence in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and the “perennial fight against Al-Qaeda,” according to transcripts.
Well, as long as Senator Cruz was cozying up to Breitbart and it’s fan, I guess it’s all okay, right?