MERRIMACK – Presidential candidate Ted Cruz responded in measured tones on Friday to the first direct salvo of the 2016 GOP presidential campaign — charges fired by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul that Cruz was “reckless” and lacked courage on addressing the budget deficit.
The Texas senator said in an interview with the New Hampshire Journal and NH1 News that “others can choose to throw rocks,” but he “will not reciprocate.”
Cruz made the comments after an impassioned speech, sounding what is becoming his familiar anti-Washington theme, to nearly 200 supporters of the newly formed Conservative Business League of New Hampshire, LLC at Merrimack VFW Post 8641.
At issue was a budget amendment sponsored by Paul to increase defense spending while offsetting the $190 billion cost by cutting what Politico described as science, education and natural resource programs.
Cruz opposed it, favoring instead a bill by another likely presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, to increase defense spending without the offsets. Both amendments failed in lopsided votes.
Sen. Ted Cruz at Merrimack VFW Post 8641 Friday afternoon
Paul told Politico Cruz and Rubio’s stance was “irresponsible and dangerous … and an inconsistent theme for anybody who wants to say that they are concerned about the debt. I think it shows a lack of concern about the debt. I think it was very, very important vote to see the contrast of the two different approaches.
Cruz, in New Hampshire for the second time in two weeks — but the first since formally announcing his presidential candidacy on Monday– didn’t want to get into a verbal tussle with the Kentuckian.
“Both Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are good friends,” Cruz said in the interview with the two New Hampshire news outlets. “I’ve agreed with them on a great many things. When we had votes on the budget I agreed with Marco Rubio’s amendment that we need to strengthen our military, that we need to devote substantially more resources to defending this nation because under the Obama administration, we have powerfully undermined the ability of the military to defend our national security.”
Cruz added, “But we have to be fiscally responsible in doing so, and that’s why I joined with (Utah Sen.) Mike Lee in filing another amendment saying that any increases in military spending had to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget without increasing taxes.”
Cruz said Paul’s amendment was “attempting to balance both of those interests and I think it was a good faith attempt. I ended up not supporting that amendment because I had concerns that it would potentially decrease our military support for the nation of Israel and it also had the potential to undermine scientific research and programs at NASA.
“Rand Paul’s amendment was a good faith effort to solve the problem,” Cruz said. “I just wasn’t persuaded it was the right one.
As for the harsh words by Paul, Cruz said, “At the end of the day, others can choose to throw rocks. I am not going to reciprocate. My answer is simple. I’m a big fan of Rand Paul. Period. The end.”
Cruz declined to weigh in on a new controversy surrounding Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has disputed reports that he backed a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants at a private dinner in New Hampshire several weeks ago, after stating publicly that he had changed his mind from an earlier positon and was now against any form of what can be construed as amnesty.
Walker acknowledged changing his mind on immigration initially but his PAC spokesman staunchly denied that he flip-flopped back to a more moderate position during the private dinner.
Cruz’s take was: “That’s going to be up to the voters of New Hampshire and across the country to make. I think every Republican primary voter ought to hold us to the exact same standard. That is, have you told us the truth? And have you done what you’ve said you’ve done?
“In a Republican primary, every candidate says he or she is the most conservative person ever to live,” Cruz said. “I think the question primary voters ought to ask is – show me. Show me, have you walked the walk? Show me, have you actually followed through on action? So when it comes to executive amnesty, someone doesn’t have to look to what I say on the campaign trail because in the Senate I have been leading the effort to stop President Obama’s unconstitutional executive amnesty.”
On every issue, Cruz said, primary voters should ask, “Show me your record. As the Scriptures say, you shall know them by their fruits.”
In a nearly 40-minute speech and question-and-answer session before the enthusiastic Tea Party-minded crowd, Cruz focused on a staunchly conservative anti-Washington message, calling for a flat tax, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, strong border security with no amnesty for illegal immigrants, rejection of the Common Core education program and strong support for the First, Second, Fourth and Tenth Amendments.
Cruz also called for a strong foreign policy focused on defeating ISIS, rejecting any nuclear deal with Iran and strong support for Israel.
Cruz noted that he is “not the most popular person with congressional leadership in Washington.” He said that after he fought to repeal the ACA, which resulted in a government shutdown, leadership retaliated.
“What does leadership do?” he asked. “Their traditional first method is they cut off your money. And suddenly, Mike Lee and I discovered, checks from Washington, D.C., went to zero. That’s how they impose discipline. They cut off your money.”
Cruz also called for “reining in” the Federal Reserve,” saying he is an original sponsor of “audit-the-fed” legislation. He said the Fed has been “debasing our currency.”
Cruz after the Merrimack event was headed to Nashua to speak at a conference of a conservative group, Young Americans for Freedom. On Saturday, he is scheduled to appear in Portsmouth to speak to a brunch cosponsored by the Seacoast Republican Women and the Rockingham County Republican Committee.
Cruz will return to New Hampshire in mid-April for the state Republican Party’s “First-in-the-Nation Republican Leadership Summit.” Sixteen potential GOP presidential candidates are scheduled to join Cruz, the only announced GOP presidential candidate, at the event in Nashua.