Senator Ted Cruz’s description of the ideal 2016 Republican presidential candidate sounds a lot like himself.
The first-termer from Texas broke with fellow Republicans calling for the next nominee for the White House to come from outside Washington, arguing that the party simply needs the right person -- a fiscal conservative willing to defy party elders and defend the U.S. Constitution.
“What I think the next president should be is someone who’s leading the fight for free-market principles and the Constitution, and someone who’s listening to the American people -- not listening to the established politicians,” Cruz, 42, who is seen as a prospective 2016 presidential contender, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Republican Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who are also potential 2016 candidates, have recently called for a Washington outsider to be the party’s next standard bearer. Praising Walker, Cruz said that isn’t the most important criterion.
“What I think matters is, are they fighting to bring back economic growth, to restore free-market principles, to bring back jobs, to bring back the Constitution, and are they listening to the American people,” Cruz said.
The Texan didn’t rule out mounting his own 2016 run -- “My focus is on the Senate,” he said during the interview -- and added that he wouldn’t criticize other Republicans who might be interested. Yet he pointedly declined to call New Jersey Governor Chris Christie a conservative.
“I like Chris Christie, I’m glad he was re-elected,” Cruz said. “I think his blunt, brash style is refreshing.”
Cruz indicated he will redouble his efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offering health care for the uninsured, early next year -- raising the prospect of yet another government shutdown fight in January.
“What we need to do is repeal it in its entirety,” Cruz said of the health-care law. Asked whether he could accomplish that in January, when Congress must vote on whether to continue funding the government, Cruz said: “I don’t know. I hope so.”
Cruz drew national attention in September for his 21-hour Senate talkathon criticizing the health-care law and caused a furor within his party with his insistence that repealing it must be a precondition for continued government funding. The stance, backed by Tea Party-aligned House Republicans, fueled a stalemate with Obama and congressional Democrats that led to a 16-day partial government shutdown, dragging Republicans’ approval ratings to historic lows.
Cruz argued that the environment for his repeal effort has improved since then because of the botched rollout of the statute, featuring a glitch-plagued website, insurance plan cancellations and premium increases.
“The difference now is, we’ve seen the disaster,” Cruz said. “The sentiment for just starting over -- for saying as a pragmatic matter, this thing isn’t working, let’s start over -- I think that sentiment grows.”
Cruz also said he wouldn’t support a “clean” debt-ceiling increase without spending preconditions, something Obama has repeatedly insisted on.
“I certainly hope that Congress uses the debt ceiling to insist upon real reforms to stop the out-of-control spending,” Cruz said.
As for what he would put in Obamacare’s place if it were repealed, he offered no new specifics on how to cover individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, instead calling for legislation to allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines and keep coverage when they switch jobs.
“If your health insurance could be like your car insurance, if it could be portable, it could go with you from job to job, that solves an enormous amount of the problem with pre-existing conditions and you can solve the rest of it with high-risk pools, which Obamacare is eliminating,” Cruz said.
Many states already have high-risk pools as a last-ditch option for those who otherwise couldn’t obtain insurance, and they offer limited relief, often capping enrollment, covering few benefits and charging exorbitant premiums. Administration officials argue they wouldn’t come close to protecting those with pre-existing conditions, who are guaranteed coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
On foreign policy, Cruz criticized Obama for seeking a nuclear weapons deal with Iran in exchange for an end to U.S. sanctions without insisting on preconditions, such as a commitment that the Iranians dismantle nuclear centrifuges, calling it “a mistake.”
“This administration’s weakness on this policy is having the effect of encouraging Iran to move faster towards acquiring nukes,” Cruz said.
He said Obama wouldn’t need to seek congressional authorization to strike Iran to prevent the regime from gaining such capabilities, and doing so could deprive Obama of “the element of surprise” if he decided to take military action.
“There is overwhelming support in Congress,” for such a move, Cruz said.