Ted Cruz Has Been Acting Bipartisan To Win Reelection, But Sometimes It's So Hard

WASHINGTON ― Something strange is happening with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lately. He’s been presenting an unusually reasonable, more moderate version of himself.

In a CNN interview late Wednesday, Cruz suggested he’s taken the high road in response to Donald Trump accusing his father of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. And in response to Trump lying about defeating him in Iowa in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. And in response to Trump smearing his wife.

“When he became president, I had a choice to make. I could be pissed,” said the Texas senator. “But if I was going to do that? He’d just been elected president. I got a job. I got a job to represent 30 million Texans. And frankly, if I was going to let my hurt feelings make me say, ‘I’m not going to work with you’? I needed to be prepared to resign my job and go home.”

“I value civility in politics,” he added. “I think we should treat each other with respect, even if we disagree with each other.”

Days earlier, Cruz, who is the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, celebrated his role in the bipartisan passage of a bipartisan law that authorizes bipartisan funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. It was a very bipartisan win.

“I am immensely proud that our bipartisan FAA reauthorization, which received overwhelming support from lawmakers in both parties, is now law,” the Texas senator said in a statement.

Even skimming the press releases on Cruz’s Senate website this year, there’s been a noticeable uptick in the use of the word “bipartisan” in his statements lately. And earlier this week, he posted a polished video and message on social media hailing Texans for their ability to “come together” after a natural disaster. 

What is happening here? This conciliatory version of Cruz is quite a contrast to that other guy typically roaming the halls of the Senate: a rabid partisan known for his displays of performativeoutrage for the cameras, the architect of the 2013 government shutdown that failed to defund Obamacare and the first U.S. senator to stand up to object to certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

We are witnessing normal Ted Cruz rebrand himself as election-year Ted Cruz, a more palatable version of himself designed to appeal to more voters as he takes on a moderate Democrat in November ― after having barely won reelection last time.

I do say, I love bipartisanship and civility when it is five months before the November election, when I am up for reelection.
I do say, I love bipartisanship and civility when it is five months before the November election, when I am up for reelection. Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Cruz is currently leading in the polls against his challenger, Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas). But he’s not taking anything for granted after what happened in 2018, when former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) took on Cruz and shocked the nation by nearly defeating him in this deep-red state.

Cruz’s metamorphosis has been underway for weeks. “I actually have very good relationships with many of my colleagues across the aisle,” he boasted to The Texas Tribune last month, citing his work with Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar. “I’ve worked with all three of them, and all three are friends.”

The familiar Ted Cruz is still with us, though. On Wednesday, he interrupted and shouted over Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) so much during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that she ultimately gave up and adjourned the hearing early.

During this hearing, Cruz and other Republicans were grilling one of Biden’s federal court nominees, Sarah Netburn, over her decision as a New York magistrate judge to approve the transfer of a transgender inmate to a female prison.

This inmate, who was born biologically male but transitioned into a female, had been convicted decades earlier of raping two minors and distributing child porn. Netburn, who has been a magistrate judge for 12 years, said she approved the transfer of this inmate to a female prison based on the recommendations of three prison wardens and a Federal Bureau of Prisons medical provider, all of whom supported the transfer and cited her serious medical needs.

As soon as it was his turn to ask questions, Cruz accused Netburn of being a political hack.

“In your court, what matters more: the rights of individuals or your political ideology?” he began.

“I apply the law to the facts,” replied Netburn. “My political ideology doesn’t matter at all.”

“OK, so I don’t believe you,” Cruz continued. “I think this case demonstrates that you are willing to subjugate the rights of individuals to your political ideologies.”

It wasn’t long before Cruz was raising his voice, calling Netburn “a radical,” and then when his time ran out, he began shouting at Butler for not letting him keep questioning Netburn. He and Sen. John Kennedy (R-La) began accusing Butler of contradicting herself. There was no evidence that she did.

“Senators, I gave both of you more time to finish your line of questioning,” said Butler, as Cruz and Kennedy kept talking over her. “I allowed the witness to finish her ― I allowed the witness to finish ― I allowed the witness to finish her response.”

Ultimately, after Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) chided Cruz and Kennedy for going off “time and time and time again” in these hearings, and after Cruz baselessly accused Democrats of engaging in “a cover-up,” Butler said that it was another senator’s turn to talk and that she would end the hearing if Cruz and Kennedy didn’t stop disregarding her control of the proceedings.

“You want to adjourn? Go ahead. You can do that!” sniped Cruz, still talking over Butler as she tried to let another senator speak.

Shortly after, before all the other senators got to ask questions, Butler adjourned.

Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), who was filling in Wednesday as the chair of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, adjourned the hearing early after Republicans, including Ted Cruz, wouldn't stop interrupting and talking over her.
Sen. Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.), who was filling in Wednesday as the chair of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, adjourned the hearing early after Republicans, including Ted Cruz, wouldn't stop interrupting and talking over her. Andrew Harnik via Getty Images

The Ted Cruz who wrecked the hearing is the same one who, on a recent afternoon, held court with reporters in front of the Senate chamber, answering their every question about his FAA bill, rhapsodizing about why commercial aviation policy is inevitably bipartisan.

“All of us care about aviation safety. Every one of us gets on airplanes, our kids get on airplanes. We want our kids to be safe,” Cruz told HuffPost earlier this month. “All of us care about having a vibrant aviation sector in America. It is a massive job producer in Texas. Aviation is absolutely critical to the economy of Texas. We also care about competition; we care about low prices. There are lots of elements of this bill that are really positive.”

Cruz’s colleagues have been amused by his collaborative turn.

“Honestly, it’s been quite the sight,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) told The Washington Post earlier this month. “We have teased him about it for the last couple of days.”

But when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked the Texas senator on Wednesday if he would promise to accept the results of November’s presidential election, the original Ted Cruz came back. He avoided answering what should have been an easy question.

“I’ve got to say, I think that’s actually a ridiculous question,” he said.