Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday defended his procedural move that brought the ire of many of his fellow Republicans last week, saying he was only doing what the incoming GOP majority was elected to do.
Appearing on Sean Hannity's syndicated radio show,
Cruz said he and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah didn't want to wait until the new Senate is sworn in in January.
"I spent two months campaigning all over this country, helping retire Harry Reid and win this new majority, and I'll tell you, Senate and House candidates said over and over again, 'elect us and we will stop President Obama's illegal executive amnesty,'" Cruz said. "We gotta honor our word."
He said the Republican leadership was angry because "they did not want to fight this fight now." He said he and Lee wanted to get Democrats on record as in favor of "executive amnesty."
Cruz and Lee's move came during the vote to approve the $1.1 trillion budget deal.
Unanimous consent was required for quick passage, but the two conservative Republicans refused to go along. They first wanted a vote on stopping President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration.
With Democrats still controlling the Senate, that vote wasn't going to pass, but the pair wanted a vote with Democrats on record supporting Obama and Republicans opposing him.
Several Republicans tried to dissuade Cruz, to no avail. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama tried to talk Cruz out of the action, and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona called it "counterproductive."
Cruz and Lee eventually got the vote, but not before Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used the extra time provided to hold procedural votes to set up the confirmation of 23 Obama nominees.
One of those was controversial surgeon general nominee Vivek Murthy, an advocate of strict gun control laws. Murthy's nomination was confirmed Monday afternoon 51-49, The Hill reported.
Twenty Republicans ended up voting against Cruz. He said he is taking Republicans at their word they will return with their 54-46 majority and try to fight Obama's immigration actions.
Some of his fellow party members accused Cruz of being selfish, a term he bristled at.
"It's funny, they use the term selfish — to actually honor the commitments you made to your constituents. 'That's not playing the rules of the game,'" he told Hannity. "Well you know what, the rules of the game have resulted in bankrupting our kids and grandkids and seeing our constitutional liberties eroded, and enough is enough."
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