Will Ted Cruz Become a Washington Insider?

Mitch McConnell hosted a fundraiser for the Tea Party darling last Thursday, and U.S. Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn attended.
Tue September 18, 2012 2:48 am
AP Photo | Charlie Neibergall

Tea Party darling Ted Cruz, who packaged himself as the anti-establishment candidate in the GOP primaries, held a $5,000-a-plate fundraiser in Washington Thursday that featured appearances by Senate Minority Leader Mitchell McConnell as well as Texas's two sitting Senators. (Those not eager to shell out $5,000 for dinner could pay $1,000 to attend just the reception.)

Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News notes that Cruz, as the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, is now "rubbing elbows with folks at the very heart of that establishment," a move which reflects "mutual interests and a willingness on all sides to find accommodation."

Does this suggest Cruz is on his way to becoming a Washington insider, i.e. the very label he applied to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst during the primary? No, Cruz seemed to say, telling Gillman Friday that "Republicans are united in the importance" of defeating President Barack Obama and wresting control of the Senate and so are banding together to achieve that goal.

Plus, his campaign needs more money: with only 98 days separating the July 31 primary runoffs and the November election, there is only a "short window" to raise cash to bankroll his general election bid.

The Tea Party insurgent also expressed his willingness, if elected, to cooperate with other senators: "I intend to work with everyone in the U.S. Senate to try to bring people together to dramatically reduce the size, power and spending of the federal government," Cruz told Gillman.

Thursday wasn't the first time last week that Kay Bailey Hutchison, John Cornyn, and Cruz got together; the three also met in the senior senator's office earlier in the week. "Republicans are united across the state of Texas, because the stakes in November are too high to do anything else," Cruz told Gillman, adding that both Hutchison and Cornyn have been "extraordinarily gracious and helpful" to him as he gears up for the general election.

As Cruz's victory over Dewhurst became apparent on the night of the primary runoffs, Texas Monthly 's Paul Burka made the following prediction: "My first reaction was that he is an ideologue, but I don’t think he’ll remain one for long. He’s going to figure out the Senate and his role in it." And now Cruz is tapping sitting senators to gain an understanding of how things work.

During the August recess, Texas Monthly 's Brian D. Sweany sat down with Hutchison at her home in Dallas for her exit interview, and asked about her relationship with Cruz, focusing specifically about the "pleasant and productive" conversation she had with the GOP nominee on the evening of his primary win. She replied:

Yes, we had a good conversation, and I told him that I wanted to be helpful with any advice that he wanted on how to set up an office and what opportunities there are. Then, in a second conversation, I called and said, "I think you should come up to our policy lunch," which is held every Tuesday. The Republican conference meets for lunch and discusses our week ahead. I said "I think you should come and let Senator [John] Cornyn and I introduce you to people so that they have a chance to get to know you." And he's been totally positive.

I will say, he told me, "You know, I'm not elected yet." He's very aware that he's got a general election in November, so he's not overstepping in any way, but he's also realizing that the probability exists, failing something out of the ordinary, that he will win. He also said, "People have told me that you're the go-to person for casework and helping people who have problems, wherever they are in the world, and I want to know how you do it." So he's been very, very good.

But, that spirit of cooperation aside, Cruz had stern words about Hutchison's earmarks when Texas Monthly editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein interviewed him in late August.

JS: The senator whom you will replace if you win the general election has been in office a long time. Should Texans be at all worried that if you're elected you won't push as hard as Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has to bring federal money back to Texas?

TC: I am absolutely opposed to earmarks. When 435 members of Congress and all 100 members of the Senate go to Washington and view their jobs as feeding at the public trough, that's how we bankrupt our country, and I don't think Texans want their senator to be part of that.

JS: But some people say that as long as the spigot is on, we should put our cup out so that the people back home are taken care of. You would disagree with that?

TC: If there is legitimate federal spending that is consistent with the Constitution, then of course I'd like to see those dollars spent in Texas. But everything that government gives to you, it must first take from you. Texans are paying a great deal in taxes, and I would rather reduce the tax burden on Texans than keep growing the leviathan that is the federal government.

The full interviews with Hutchison and Cruz appear in Texas Monthly 's October issue, available on newstands and TexasMonthly.com later this week.

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