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Shocker: Ted Cruz only likes the filibuster when it hurts Democrats

‘I would end the 60-vote filibuster right now,’ Cruz said in 2017. He also called the Senate rule ‘stupid.’

By Josh Israel - January 13, 2022
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has spent the past few days defending the filibuster rule as vital to preserving democracy and attacking Democrats for changing their position on it. But Cruz himself said he supported getting rid of the filibuster in 2017.

Speaking on the Senate floor on Wednesday, Cruz slammed President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for wanting to eliminate the filibuster — an obscure Senate rule that in effect requires a 60-vote threshold rather than a 51-vote simple majority to pass laws.

Cruz called Democrats’ move to do away with the filibuster a “brazen power grab” and argued that 67 senators should have to vote in favor of the rules change for it to pass.

“They’re going to do it by nuking the filibuster. The rules of the Senate, written in that book that sits on the dais in front of you, say that to proceed to legislation takes 60 votes in this Senate. Takes 60% of the senators. Those are the Senate rules. They’re black and white, they’re clear,” Cruz said.

At a Tuesday press conference, Cruz cited 17-year-old remarks by Schumer (D-NY) in support of the filibuster rules. “Chuck Schumer said ending the filibuster would be ‘doomsday for democracy’ and turn America ‘into a banana republic,'” Cruz said. “He was telling the truth in 2005 and it’s still true today.”

But while Cruz now objects to Democrats changing their mind on the filibuster and to the notion of changing the Senate’s cloture rules by a simple majority vote, he has previously done both.

In 2015, when Democratic President Barack Obama was in the White House, Cruz defended the filibuster as a needed procedural protection “for the rights of the minority” and to “limit rash decision-making.”

But after Donald Trump became president in 2017, Cruz pushed for the Republican majority to do away with the rule and foil the Democratic minority’s ability to block legislation.

At a September 2017 tea party event, he told supporters he had changed his mind on the issue over the previous five years. “Long and short of it, I would end the 60-vote filibuster right now,” Cruz said, calling it “stupid” and only limiting to Republicans.

PolitiFact rated Cruz’s turnabout a “full flop” at the time.

In his Wednesday floor speech, Cruz also said President Joe Biden wants Democrats to “break the Senate rules to change the Senate rules” by getting a majority vote to ignore the 60-vote requirement. “It’s called ‘nuking the filibuster.'”

Cruz and the then-Republican majority also voted in April 2017 to use the same process to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmation votes, eliminating the 60-vote requirement with just 52 Republicans voting to do so. This allowed them to put Neil Gorsuch, who lacked the needed bipartisan support, on the Supreme Court for life.

In a Fox News appearance at the time, Cruz called this “a victory for the American people” and defended the importance of having “an up or down vote” to carry out the will of the voters who elected Trump.

Cruz is not the only Republican who backed getting rid of the filibuster when their party held a Senate majority.

Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said in 2015 that the “60-vote rule is damaging to the future of our country” and “damaging to the ability of the Senate to work the will of the American people and to make decisions that advance a cause different than one’s political party and political philosophy.”

After Trump demanded the Senate pass his stalled legislative agenda by a simple majority, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama reportedly told him he supports “going to a simple majority.”

And Montana Sen. Steve Daines even wrote an op-ed for the Billings Gazette in which he argued that, since there is no constitutional basis for the filibuster rule, all bills should be considered by “an up or down vote” and go to the president’s desk if a majority votes in favor.

Many Democrats who once supported the 60-vote requirement have changed their minds on the filibuster after seeing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell use it to obstruct their agenda.

The latest showdown comes as Republicans continue to filibuster the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore federal voting rights protections and overrule states’ attempts to suppress minority participation.

Schumer has said he plans to bring up the bill by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 17 and added that if Republicans don’t “change course,” he will trigger a vote on a possible change to the filibuster rules.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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