This is the week Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) needs to show just how well he can work inside the congressional corridors of power, where he’s served for all of nine months. The controversial Cruz has been shaking the tree ever since he arrived in Washington; but it’s not just Democrats that object to what some call his arrogance. Cruz has raised eyebrows among Republicans, too.
The Tea Party-backed firebrand has long clamored for a showdown with the Obama administration over its health care reform law, saying it should be defunded as part of the appropriations process. “The American people overwhelmingly oppose Obamacare … which is killing jobs, dragging down the economy, and harming the most vulnerable,” he said Friday. “They deserve a fight – and House Republicans are leading that charge.”
After the House voted to defund Obamacare on Friday as part of an emergency measure to keep the government afloat through mid-December, Cruz said, “The House was just step one. Step two is the Senate."
Cruz said he and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) probably didn’t have enough votes to block Senator Harry Reid’s action in the Democratic-controlled Senate “so the House has to lead on this,” he said on Fox News Sunday. No wonder some fellow Republicans are furious, especially those who’ve long believed risking a government shutdown to strip Obamacare of funding was just out-and-out foolish.
Who is Ted Cruz? While the country creeps closer to a government shutdown and possibly a default on its financial obligations, here’s a look at the man James Carville called “the most talented and fearless Republican politician I’ve seen in the last 30 years. He touches every button … this guy has no fear.”
- Ted Cruz was born Rafael Cruz in 1970 in Alberta, Canada – where his Cuban father, an immigrant, and his Irish-American mother, both computer programmers, moved from Texas for the 1960s oil boom.
- Cruz says he’s “had two heroes in my life. My father and Ronald Reagan.” The family returned to Houston in 1974, when Cruz was four. Rafael Edward Cruz, the senator’s father, had fled Cuba in 1957 as a staunch critic of Castro, with only $100 sewn into his underwear – though he supported Castro early on and regretted that. The elder Cruz became a U.S. citizen in 2005 and is today, at 74, a pastor.
- Ted Cruz obtained American citizenship as a newborn through his American mother, who was born in Delaware. He considers himself a natural born citizen because of his mother’s citizenship.
- Raised in Houston, Cruz said he speaks “lousy” Spanish. In high school he participated in a group called the Free Market Education Foundation, where he learned about Milton Friedman and other free-market economic philosophers.
- He memorized the Constitution as a teenager and recited it across the state with a group of high school students. They called themselves the Constitutional Corroborators.
- He graduated from Houston’s Second Baptist High School in 1988 and was valedictorian of his class.
- He was a champion debater at Princeton – and still wears his Princeton ring. After graduation in 1992 he attended Harvard Law School, where he became a founding editor of the Harvard Latino Law Review; he graduated in 1995. While at Harvard Law he reportedly refused to study with anyone who hadn’t spent their undergrad years at Harvard, Princeton or Yale. A new GQ profile quotes Damon Watson, one of Cruz’s law-school roommates: “He said he didn’t want anybody from ‘minor Ivies’ like Penn or Brown.”
- In 1996, he became Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s first Hispanic law clerk and worked for him for a year.
- He worked in private practice for a few years, then met Josh Bolten, George W. Bush’s campaign policy director (also a Princeton alum). He became a domestic policy adviser to Bush during the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.
- He married Heidi Nelson Cruz, another policy adviser, in 2001. They have two children.
- When the election ended in a recount, the couple went to Florida to work for Bush’s team.
- For two years, 2001-2002, Cruz worked as a lawyer in the Bush administration, serving as assistant attorney general in the Justice Dept. and director of policy planning at the Federal Trade Commission.
- In 2003, he was appointed solicitor general of Texas. In five years there, he wrote 70 briefs to the Supreme Court and argued before the court nine times. He was involved in numerous high-profile cases, including defending the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas State Capitol grounds, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools and the 2003 Texas redistricting plan.
- From 2008 to 2012 he worked as a private appellate attorney in Houston.
- In April 2011 he declared his candidate for the U.S. Senate.
- In July 2012 he won the GOP nomination in a runoff with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, called “the biggest upset of 2012” by The Washington Post.
- On November 6, 2012, he became the first Latino elected to the Senate from Texas.
- Then-South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s PAC and the anti-tax Club for Growth both opened their wallets to support Cruz’s campaign.
- He favors black ostrich-skin cowboy boots, something he calls his “argument boots,” since he’s worn them frequently while arguing court cases.
- He’s a “man of many contrasts,” says The Houston Chronicle: The “widespread national emphasis on Cruz as a symbol of growing Latino clout in the GOP – underscored by his prime time speech at the Republican National Convention in August [of 2012] – obscures the emergence of Cruz as a leader in the new wave of conservatives who don’t fit the traditional political labels of their parents’ generation.
- But his party is “pissed off” at him right now for the pressure he’s put on House Republicans all summer long to defund Obamacare – and his seeming lack of a game plan going forward, where victory in the Senate seems impossible and a shutdown hangs in the balance.