Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, came into the U.S. Senate with a promise to his Tea Party backers to block President Barack Obama’s progressive agenda. He’s kept that promise, fighting with Democrats and even other Republicans over spending, the federal budget and the Affordable Care Act, over which he once kept up a 21-hour filibuster.
Cruz has rankled the left, but he’s also alienated the GOP establishment as he’s pursued his conservative mission. Now he’s fighting with Donald Trump for GOP front-runner status on the campaign trail.
The Root’s Meet the Candidates series concludes with an examination of Cruz’s positions on some of the issues that affect the black community. Previously we took a look at the candidacies of Bernie Sanders, Trump, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.
Now we turn to Cruz, who touts his family’s humble beginnings as the encouragement he needed to become a high-achiever. But does his record suggest that he would reach back to help others?
It was a memorable moment that lives on in cyberspace. Cruz was in the middle of an epic Senate-floor talkathon, attacking the Affordable Care Act, when he began reading Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. It was part of his 21-hour filibuster, part of his failed promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”
But two years later, one of Obamacare’s most strident opponents did something puzzling: He signed up for medical insurance through HealthCare.gov. Some viewed that move as hypocritical, while others disagreed. One thing is certain: Rolling back the president’s signature policy is a pillar of Cruz’s candidacy.
Cruz praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to scrap the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision. That section of the law required several (mostly Southern) states to obtain federal approval of changes to their voting laws because of a history of denying voting rights to blacks.
The Texas Republican is part of the wave of lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, who agree that criminal-justice reform is needed. In the Brennan Center for Justice’s book on criminal-justice reform, Cruz called for “carefully calibrated” changes to sentencing requirements. “Harsh mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes have contributed to prison overpopulation and are both unfair and ineffective relative to the public expense and human costs of years-long incarceration,” the former solicitor general wrote.
Yet Cruz opposed bipartisan Senate legislation to make nonviolent drug offenders eligible for shorter prison sentences. He expressed concern that violent felons would slip through.
Black Lives Matter
He has also been a harsh critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, accusing the activists of “literally suggesting and embracing and celebrating the murder of police officers” at some of their protests. Cruz blamed the Obama administration for a deadly spike in crime that has taken black lives. He argued that the administration’s “vilification” of law enforcement causes cops to hesitate to make arrests out of fear of being labeled racists.
When it comes to gun control, Cruz, like most Republicans, staunchly opposes more government regulation of the sale of firearms. In the aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist shooting, he preached the gospel of gun ownership as a deterrent and defense against “bad guys.”
Many who are trying to climb into the middle class feel hopelessly buried under a pile of student-loan debt. Well, Cruz understands that struggle. When he launched his presidential campaign at Liberty University last year, Cruz told the students that he took out more than $100,000 in college loans that “I suspect a lot of y’all can relate to.”
He paid off his loans a couple of years ago. And although he may feel the pain of others, some are wondering if he would do anything as president to help others. Cruz joined other Republicans in opposing a bill to allow students to refinance student loans because it would tax the wealthy.
In 2013 Cruz put forward a budgetary amendment proposal that would have repealed provisions that put commercial banks out of the federal student-loan market. If a majority of Democrats had not opposed it, Cruz’s amendment would have resulted in larger monthly loan payments and big profits for Wall Street banks.
Cruz also opposes another issue that’s important to many African-American voters: increasing the minimum wage.
“Voting for an increase for the minimum wage is saying your jobs don’t matter to me because they will get taken away,” he said before voting against a bill that would have raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. “This bill, if it were to pass, would hammer those at the bottom of the economic ladder and cost them their jobs.”
Previously in the Meet the Candidates series:
Nigel Roberts is a New York City-based freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter.