Michael Bennet has built a reputation as a mild-mannered member of the U.S. Senate, but on Thursday the Colorado Democrat exploded at Ted Cruz, R-Texas, over what he called Cruz’s “crocodile tears” for workers affected by the ongoing government shutdown.
“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side. I’ve worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer and with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take,” Bennet said. “They’re too hard for me to take. Because when you, when the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013 my state was flooded. It was underwater. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down, for politics.”
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 24, 2019
Bennet delivered his remarks moments after Cruz had placed the blame for the latest government shutdown solely on Democrats and criticized the party for not approving a measure to fund the salaries of members of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“They voted for 350 miles of wall, so why are they shutting the government down over 234 miles of wall? It’s not substantive, it’s political,” Cruz said. “OK, we get that they hate Donald Trump. If anyone in America had missed that point, that they really, really, really don’t like this man, their yelling and screaming and bellowing has made that abundantly clear. But just because you hate somebody doesn’t mean you should shut the government down.”
In 2013, Cruz, then a freshman senator, forced a 16-day government shutdown in a failed attempt to defund the Affordable Care Act. Cruz received widespread criticism for his political gambit, which was punctuated by a 21-hour filibuster during which he read the Dr. Seuss story “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Senate floor. The shutdown made Cruz a star among hardline conservatives but helped alienate him from his colleagues, earning him the unofficial title of the most disliked member of the Senate.
Bennet’s boiling point on Thursday drew both on Cruz’s history with government shutdowns and on Democratic anger that Trump’s demand for a wall was the singular issue that brought about the stalemate.
“Now it’s his business, not my business, why he supports a president who wants to erect a medieval barrier on the border of Texas,” Bennet said of Cruz and Trump. “Who wants to use eminent domain to build that wall, who wants to declare an unconstitutional emergency to build that wall. That’s the business of the senator from Texas. I can assure you that in Colorado if a president said he was going to use eminent domain to erect a barrier across the state of Colorado, across the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, he was going to steal the property of our farmers and ranchers to build his medieval wall, there wouldn’t be an elected leader from our state that would support that idea. Which goes to my final point, how ludicrous it is that this government is shut down over a promise that the president of the United States couldn’t keep, and that America is not interested in having him keep. This idea that he was going to build a medieval wall across the southern border of Texas, take it from the farmers and ranchers that were there and have the Mexicans pay for it isn’t true. That’s why we’re here.”
Returning to the microphone after Bennet’s speech, Cruz remarked that the Colorado senator had “spent a great deal of time yelling.”
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