Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), pointing to what he called the mismanagement of a border security and Ukraine funding package, said Tuesday it’s time for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to step down as the Senate GOP leader.
Cruz was one of 10 Republican senators who voted against McConnell’s reelection as Senate minority leader after the 2022 election and he is a longtime critic of McConnell’s leadership.
While Cruz’s desire to replace McConnell as leader isn’t new, he has stepped up his criticism of the veteran Kentucky lawmaker in anticipation that the border security deal negotiated by Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), whom McConnell tapped for the task, would fall flat with GOP senators.
Asked at a press conference whether it’s time for McConnell “to go,” Cruz replied: “I think it is.”
“Everyone here also supported to the leadership challenge to Mitch McConnell in November [2022,]” he said at a press conference with Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), JD Vance (R-Ohio), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.).
“I think a Republican leader should actually lead this conference and should advance the priorities of Republicans,” he said.
Asked about Cruz’s comments Tuesday afternoon, McConnell quipped that he wasn’t shocked to hear that his Texas colleague is criticizing him again.
“I think we can all agree that Sen. Cruz is not a fan,” McConnell replied with deadpan humor.
Cruz earlier Tuesday said he urged Senate Republicans after the 2022 election to elect a new leader after Republicans lost the Senate race in Pennsylvania and saw their minority shrink to 49 seats.
“We lost a seat in the Senate and we barely got a majority in the House. And I stood up and said in any ordinary organization when you’re faced with failure — if you’re running a business and you lose $50 million — you don’t just say, ‘Everything’s great, let’s keep doing it.’ No, you sit down and say, ‘What are we doing wrong?’” Cruz said Tuesday.
He said the Senate border security bill was “designed to lose” and declared it is a plan Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is thrilled with.”
Cruz says Congress does not need to pass legislation to reform the nation’s asylum laws and give the president power to close the border, arguing that President Biden has all the tools to shut the border without help from Congress.
But he called for congressional action on the border in 2019, when former President Trump was in office.
Cruz tweeted in July 2019 that the “only way” to end what at the time called the “crisis” at the border was “for Congress to stop the political posturing and solve the problem.”
Cruz and McConnell have a history of battling over strategy going back to 2013, when Cruz encouraged House conservatives to oppose any government funding bill that did not repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The standoff resulted in a 16-day government shutdown, which McConnell later declared was a political loser for the Republican Party.
A Senate GOP aide dismissed Cruz’s call for McConnell to step down as “nothing new.”
The Texas senator’s comments Tuesday criticizing McConnell and the Senate GOP leadership got support from Vance, who joined him on stage for a press conference to criticize the border deal.
“I want to echo everything that Ted has said. I think all of us has made this argument: The leadership really screwed this up,” he said.
“I think they made a series of political arguments that were never going to actually fly. They knew or at least should have known that this bill was never actually going to get there,” he said.
“Certainly on the Ukraine question, I think leadership is massively out of touch with Republican voters. We are not as a Republican Party behind unlimited, unaccounted for aid to Ukraine without any goals in mind,” Vance said.
Updated at 3:11 p.m.