Ted Cruz appeared on Thursday’s show. The audio and transcript will be posted here as soon as they are available.
The audio of Hugh’s interview with Ted Cruz is here.
HH: So pleased to welcome back United States Senator Ted Cruz. Senator Cruz, welcome, and congratulations, I think you and your colleagues, Senators Lee, Paul and Rubio have brought the House around, and you’re going to get votes on Obamacare funding. Congratulations.
TC: Well, thank you, Hugh. It is great to be with you. It’s always great to join you. And I’ll tell you, this week is a terrific week for the American people. Just weeks ago, every political pundit in Washington said it was impossible that we would see leadership to move forward and defund Obamacare in Washington. And on Friday, the House of Representatives is going to take a bold, courageous move that is thankful to House conservatives that stuck their neck out, that took a risk, and the thanks is also due to House leadership and Speaker Boehner for listening to the American people and standing up, and voting to defund Obamacare, which is the right thing to do. It’s the biggest job killer in America. And so it’s really a testament to the power of the grassroots across this country.
HH: This is also going to oblige Senator Begich, Senators Hagan, Landrieu, Pryor, Shaheen and Udall, Mark Udall of Colorado, to all vote for Obamacare again. That’s the brilliance of this. And they probably will, don’t you think?
TC: Well, they might initially, but the strategy on this all along has been directed not towards Washington, but towards the American people. It has been directed towards building a grassroots tsunami. You know, in a matter of just a few weeks, we’ve seen nearly 1.5 million Americans sign a national petition at www.dontfundit.com, www.dontfundit.com. That 1.5 million Americans has been calling their representatives, has been standing up and speaking, and that’s why the House is voting this week to defund Obamacare. And if we keep, in the next eleven days, building a grassroots tsunami, if we keep getting millions of Americans to stand up and say Obamacare isn’t working, it is hurting Americans, it is killing jobs, we need to stand up and stop it, eventually, every elected official will be forced to listen to the American people, and that includes first, Republicans, but eventually, even Democrats if enough of their constituents…you know, look, if you’re a red state Democrat, Hugh, let’s say you’re running in the state of Arkansas and you get 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 phone calls from Arkansans, that begins to get your attention. That begins to change your calculus. And the way we win this fight is if in the next eleven days, millions and millions of people keep going to www.dontfundit.com, keep signing the petition, and keep holding our elected officials accountable. That’s how we actually succeed in defunding Obamacare.
HH: I’m hoping everyone does that. I will retweet it out via @hughhewitt on Twitter. Senator Cruz is also on Twitter. You ought to be following his Twitter feed. I’ll post it at www.hughhewitt.com as well. I’m also hoping, Senator Cruz, that next week, when the bill is in the Senate, it becomes a teach-in of sorts, via a filibuster. And today, Politico quotes you as saying you are open to that. I am hoping for it, not open to it, I’m hoping for it, that what Senator Rand Paul used so brilliantly in the discussion about drones, you and Senators Lee, Paul and Rubio, again, these are our four aces when it comes to speaking ability, get up there, and there are other fine rhetoricians, but you four bring the A game, the starting backfield sort of thing, that you’ll get out there and hammer home that the AFL-CIO wants this repealed, that it’s destroying small businesses, that premiums in Ohio have gone up 41%, Anthem Blue Cross in California has left. I don’t know that enough Americans know the actual facts of the fiasco that is Obamacare.
TC: No, it really is staggering, and every day it becomes clearer and clearer that this thing isn’t working, that more and more Americans are losing their jobs, are not getting hired in the first place. More and more Americans are finding themselves forcibly reduced to 29 hours a week. More and more Americans are seeing skyrocketing health insurance premiums. And more and more Americans are losing their health insurance altogether. And as you noted, the fact that the unions are jumping ship, I mean, there is bipartisan agreement that it isn’t working, and President Obama has already lawlessly granted exemptions for big corporations and for members of Congress. And this fight over defunding Obamacare in one sentence is about if President Obama will grant waivers to big corporations and members of Congress, why would President Obama threaten to shut down the federal government in order to deny those same waivers to hard-working American families?
HH: Weill you filibuster a CR that funds Obamacare in the Senate?
TC: I will use any and all procedural means available. We will use everything we can to stop Obamacare.
HH: And have you consulted with, and are coordinating strategies with Senators Lee, Paul, Rubio and others?
TC: We are absolutely discussing strategy. At this point, we don’t know precisely what procedural posture Harry Reid is going to use to bring up the bill, and so that impacts strategy in terms of how to fight to defund Obamacare. But whatever avenue Harry Reid chooses to employ, we will use every tool at our disposal to fight to defund Obamacare.
HH: This will be a terrific week next week. We will cover it wall to wall, every minute of it, and I hope that those arguments are made. I also hope, Senator, and in fact, I’ll ask you, will you fight as hard to fully fund the military as you have fought to defund Obamacare?
TC: Absolutely yes, and that’s one thing that’s worth underscoring. Republicans are united. None of us want to shut down the government. Every one of us wants to keep the government funded. Tomorrow, the House of Representatives is going to vote to fund the federal government in its entirety, every bit of the federal government. Even parts we may not be happy with, the House Republicans are going to vote to fund. And if there is a risk of a partial temporary government shutdown, it will be only because Harry Reid and Barack Obama choose to threaten that risk in order to deny hard-working American families the same exemption that they’ve already given to big corporations and to members of Congress. And President Obama and the Senate Democrats have suggested that they might be willing to threaten the pay of the men and women of our armed services. I think that is profoundly cynical and it’s wrong. And if Harry Reid tries to shut down the government to force Obamacare on us, I think the House of Representatives should step up and pass one continuing resolution after another, staring with a continuing resolution that simply funds the military, pays the men and women of the military, sends it over, and see if Harry Reid is willing to look in the eyes of our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines, and say that he’s going to try to cut off their paycheck because he’s so committed to Obamacare. I don’t think Harry Reid will be willing to do that, and I think we ought to keep pressing this over and over and over again to say we want to fund the government, but we are listening to the American people, and we must defund Obamacare, because it’s killing jobs, and it’s hurting millions of Americans.
HH: And that is a great strategy. I’ve got a bit broader question, though. It goes to the sequester and the Department of Defense and the absolute attrition of readiness. We’ve got these eleven carriers, one under construction, one on the drawing board. We’ve cut the Marine Corps by 20,000, it may be more. We’ve cut the Army drastically. We are draining the readiness from our military. And this sequester of the DOD has to end. And so what I’m saying, will you turn, and your colleagues turn their formidable talents on stopping this, because it’s killing our military?
TC: It is a serious concern, and Republicans are united in believing that sequester cuts our Defense budget far too much, and indeed, it’s punitive the proportion that Defense is paying of the cuts. I’ll tell you, on the broader issue, though, of the sequester, the challenge is that the two parties are at the impasse. Every Republican, I think, would stand together to restore the funding to the military, because we need to stand by our men and women in the military and protect our national security. But what the Democrats are insisting as the price for that is that we undo the spending cuts that have been enacted, which have been the only real spending cuts enacted in four and a half years, and that we raise taxes. And in my view, given the fiscal and economic challenges in this country, raising taxes or spending yet more and building up our national debt is not acceptable. So right now, unfortunately, we are at an impasse on that. I am hopeful that there may be some progress made on that, but the two sides appear quite far apart right now.
HH: Senator Cruz, I’m looking at the new Foreign Affairs with a picture of the Ayatollah Khamenei on it, Who Is Khamenei: The Mind Of Iran’s Supreme Leader. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that, yet, or The Looming Tower, but they are together quite troubling, because we are obviously headed into a confrontation, despite the sort of rhetoric coming out of the new president of Iran right now. We know the Supreme Leader is still the supreme leader. Does anyone have a sense of urgency around the Senate, especially in the Republicans? The Party of Reagan was the part of a 600 ship Navy, and forward-leaning in the world, and willing to defend freedom wherever it was threatened on the high seas or when our American people were threatened. Is that caucus dead within the Republican Party?
TC: No, I don’t think it is. It is certainly a passion of mine. When the sham election was scheduled in Iran, I went to the floor of the Senate to denounce the sham election and make clear that it is the Iranian Supreme Leader who remains in control of that nation, and what the press was heralding as an Iranian moderate remains an extreme radical who has condemned the nation of Israel, has committed to going forward with their nuclear weapons proposal. And Hugh, in my view, the threat of the nation of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons is the gravest national security threat facing the United States of America. And just last week, on September 11th, I gave a major foreign policy address at the Heritage Foundation, in which I described my view of foreign policy, which is that our foreign policy and our military policy should remain focused directly on protecting U.S. national security and U.S. national interest. We should proceed with, we should speak with moral clarity, and we should always have a plan to win. And if you look at Syria and contrast it with Iran, I think that President Obama has been both too dovish and too hawkish at the same time. In Syria, I think it was a mistake when the President proposed a unilateral military strike. Why was it a mistake? Because it wasn’t advancing our U.S. national security interests, and indeed, if it had succeeded in strengthening the hand of the radical Islamic terrorists, the al Qaeda and al Nusra terrorists, and allowed them to acquire chemical weapons, it would have hurt our U.S. national security interests. In contrast, as you rightly note, Iran’s acquiring a nuclear weapon is an existential threat to this nation, because if they acquire a nuclear weapon, there exists a very substantial possibility they would use that weapon against the United States of America, or against our allies. And in my view, the President has been far too timid in failing to make clear that if Iran continues to proceed down this road, that we would use overwhelming military force to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capacity, because we will not allow millions of our citizens to be threatened by nuclear weapons from a nation from whom there is a very real risk they would use those weapons.
HH: And Senator, let me wrap up our time together by, this is a serious question. This isn’t just hot stove league baseball. The Republicans in 2016 are going to be overwhelmingly likely led by one of four senators, four governors, or one congressman. It’s either going to be you or Rand Paul or Marco Rubio or John Thune, it’s either going to be Governor Walker, Governor Kasich, Governor Christie, Governor Perry or Paul Ryan. Nine people are our front bench. And I think this is different than before. I think that being coy is not going to reward people, but being transparently in the hunt for the presidency is going to generate momentum, support and enormous enthusiasm. When will you make the decision on if you will seek the presidency?
TC: Well, Hugh, I understand why you’re asking the political question, and there’s no doubt that what happens in 2016 is incredibly important for this nation. But I can tell you my focus right now is 100% on the Senate, and that’s not simply a convenient political dodge. The Senate is the battlefield right now. The Senate is where these fights are being fought. You take defunding Obamacare, rather than focus on politics three years from now, my focus is on doing everything humanly possible to win these fights, because when I travel the state of Texas, and we’ve done over 60 events across the state of Texas, we’ve done events in 13 states all over the country, the universal response I hear from Texans and from Americans all over this country is we need to get jobs and the economy back. We need to restore economic growth. We need to expand opportunity. And in my view, if we focus not on the politics, but on solving the fiscal and economic problems in this country, on restoring economic growth, then the politics will take care of itself.
HH: Well, let, me push back a bit on that, Senator…
HH: …because I finished reading Jonathan Alter’s The Center Holds, and I read Dan Balz’ Collision 2012, and it’s also part of Mark Liebovich’s This Town, all of which I’ve read every page. And in fact, the Democrat machine never sleeps. It never, it’s a 24/7, 365 day a year get out the vote operation that gathers data, mines data, collects and deploys resources. And the RNC is doing a fine job under Reince Priebus, but we can’t really hang around until December of 2014 after the next midterms, and then decide who’s going to get in and get out. We need to have someone right now letting us know they will be in the hunt. And I’m just asking, I don’t think we can wait that long and be in the hunt. When will you decide to decide?
TC: Well, look, I understand your perspective on that. What I can tell you is I’m trying as hard as humanly possible not to focus on the politics, because I think there are bigger challenges than the politics. And my focus over and over again, you know, today, there have been all sorts of back and forth, and everyone in Washington likes to focus on one personality or another personality. My view is most Americans could not possibly care less about a bunch of politicians in Washington. What most Americans are interested in is are we going to get our economy moving again? Are we going to get jobs back? Are we going to expand growth so that people who are struggling to climb the economic ladder can achieve the American dream? And I think if you focus on substance, look, that yields political benefits. I’m not oblivious to that. But the more you focus on fighting to do the right thing, the better it is for the country, and also there are political consequences that flow from that at the same time.
HH: To be continued, but I sure hope people decide early rather than later.
HH: Senator Ted Cruz, congratulations, great win, and good luck next week. Come talk to us in the middle of the filibuster.
TC: I look forward to it. Thank you, Hugh.
HH: Thank you, Ted Cruz.
End of interview.