Late last month, Ted Cruz corralled 15 other Republicans to send Senate Majority Leader Reid a letter threatening to filibuster “the motion to proceed to any legislation that will serve as a vehicle for any additional gun restrictions.” That's a threat to filibuster even having a Senate debate about gun control.
Sen. McCain, though a Republican, considers the threat beyond comprehension. He said on CBS' “Face the Nation”:
I don't understand it. The purpose of the United States Senate is to debate and to vote and to let the people know where we stand…Why not take it up and amend it and debate? The American people would profit from it. I do not understand why United States Senators want to block debate when the Leader has said we can have amendments.
He's exactly right. The Senate is for deliberation, and for Republicans to obstinately block debate is entirely anathema to the point of the Senate. Thinking of the Senate as an office, Cruz and his gang are office workers who create distractions to avoid attending a meeting they don't look forward to.
Cruz, of course, is sticking with it, making up arguments to justify himself:
I think the criticism has been silly. The critics have said 'we need to have a debate, we need to have a vote.' We are having a debate and we are having a vote. We're going to have a vote on cloture tomorrow and we are debating it. The only question is, 'what should the vote threshold be for legislation that would violate potentially the Bill of Rights?' I think it should be a minimum of 60 votes. And I'll point out that a lot of Republicans saying they are happy to vote to shut off debate and move to the bill – they don't even know what the bill contains. I mean it's reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi talking about Obamacare, saying we have to pass it to find out what's in it.
That's a specious argument. No one has proposed making the threshold 50 votes (although it should be). Cruz is doing his classic “call you silly while lying” maneuver. And that last bit about Republicans not knowing what's in the bill? Made up out of thin air. Frankly, there's not much in the bill.
Read more after the jump and watch McCain's statement.White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer noted this weekend that all members of Congress rose to applaud President Obama's request for an up-or-down vote on gun measures at the State of the Union. “Now that the cameras are off and they're not forced to look the Newtown families in the face, now they want to make it harder and filibuster,” Pfeiffer said.
In truth, it would look terrible for Republicans to oppose what's left in the bill: background checks. They have the support of 90 percent of Americans, and they're overwhelmingly common sensical. Though he of course didn't concede that reality, McCain pointed out accurately that the point of debate is to show the American people where senators stand.
Ted Cruz brags that he didn't come to Washington to make friends, and that his obstructionism should be taken as a sign of his dedication. But the problem isn't that Cruz is unpopular. The problem is that he is a terrible senator with no interest in advancing even a debate on bills. He's working his hardest on being the senatorial bully to the detriment of, really, the whole country.