Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that the next president should be “someone who’s leading the fight for free-market principles and the Constitution,” and who isn’t listening to “the established politicians.”
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: Welcome and we’re joined today by the junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. Senator, thank you for being with us.
TED CRUZ: Al, it’s great to join you.
HUNT: Big fight in the Senate this week over the rules change. Republicans are furious at what Harry Reid did. The atmosphere was pretty bad, anyway. This isn’t really going to change anything, is it?
CRUZ: Well, it’s unfortunate. It’s yet another abuse of power by the Democrats. And, frankly, it’s continuing the same pattern we’ve seen with Obamacare. It is a pattern of smoke and mirrors.
HUNT: Will it complicate passing budgets or debt ceilings or anything?
CRUZ: Of course it will. I mean, it will poison the atmosphere of the Senate, but, you know, it’s also an illustration of the Democrats breaking their word. Just like President Obama said, if you like your plan, you can keep it. And he said it over and over again. We now know that at the time he said that, he knew it was false.
Harry Reid has said over and over again this year that he was not going to break the Senate rules to change them and he just broke his word.
HUNT: Let’s talk about Obamacare. You were denounced, including by some members of your own party, for insisting the repeal of the affordable healthcare act had to be part of the continuing resolution. Since then – and, of course, Republicans capitulated – since then, the rollout has been a disaster. There have been other problems.
In light of this different environment, do you think when the CR comes up again in January, are you going to insist that repeal of Obamacare be a condition to that?
CRUZ: Well, I think there will be plenty of time to worry about the specific tactical steps. What I think is critical is that we keep focus on Obamacare and on fixing things -
HUNT: But, do you want to tweak it or change it in January?
CRUZ: I think what we need to do is repeal in its entirety.
HUNT: You think you have a better shot at doing something in January than you did in October?
CRUZ: I think every day that people see how Obamacare isn’t working, how it’s killing jobs, how it’s forcing people into part-time work, how it’s causing premiums to skyrocket and how it’s caused already over 5 million people to lose their health insurance, every day people see that, I think 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.
HUNT: We talked about the budget resolution. The debt ceiling is coming up in February. That also passed last month with no conditions. You have said that’s the “best leverage” – that’s a quote – that the Congress has to really rein in the president. The debt is due in February; what conditions would you like to see placed on that?
CRUZ: Well, you know, we’ve seen historically, the last 55 times the debt ceiling has been raised, half of them, Congress has put significant spending restraints on the executive. And the sad thing is when President Obama became president; we had roughly $10 trillion in national debt. We now have over $17 trillion; bigger than the size of our entire economy.
And all across the country, people understand what we’re doing -
HUNT: You stick conditions on the debt ceiling this time, do you believe?
CRUZ: I certainly hope that Congress uses the debt ceiling to insist upon real reform.
HUNT: If you repeal Obamacare, the affordable health-care act, you also would repeal a provision that would give the right to millions of people with pre-existing conditions to get insurance coverage.
So, if you repeal it, would you replace that provision and how, or would you just go back to the status quo?
CRUZ: Well, I think there are lots of positive reforms we can do.
HUNT: But, on pre-existing conditions, what would you do?
CRUZ: Well, you can look at what a lot of the states have done, which is high-risk pools, which expands coverage. But, I think the most important reform we can do after we repeal Obamacare or even in conjunction with repealing Obamacare, is allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines because if you want to expand coverage, what you want to do is you want more choices and you want to have lower costs.
HUNT: Will that affect many of those people with pre-existing conditions? I mean, don’t you need some kind of special protection for them?
CRUZ: Well, and many states had high-risk pools that actually Obamacare is causing to be shut down.
HUNT: Well, but I’m – you know, Obamacare may be doing that, but I’m just talking about the people with pre-existing conditions. What do you do for them?
CRUZ: I think there are plenty of legal provisions you can do. I’ll tell you one of the key ways to address pre-existing conditions is with portability. You know, right now, if you or I lose our jobs, we don’t lose our life insurance, our car insurance, our house insurance. There’s no reason we should lose our health insurance.
And it’s the worst ones …
HUNT: But, these are some people who don’t have insurance.
CRUZ: But, my point is, that’s where much of the problem with pre-existing conditions comes from is when someone has coverage, has a job, they lose their job and then they can’t get new health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition.
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.
And right now, the undeniable fact, more people have lost their health insurance because of Obamacare than have gotten health insurance because of Obamacare. The thing isn’t working. It’s simple pragmatics.
HUNT: Let me turn to foreign policy. You have expressed outrage at the Iranians’ imprisonment of a Christian pastor. Do you think the president has done enough to protest this and should we consider cutting off all talks with the Iranians until this is resolved?
CRUZ: Well, the case you bring up is really heartbreaking. It’s Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is an American. He was born in Iran, his wife and two small children are in Idaho.
And a little over a year ago, he was in Iran building an orphanage there and he was imprisoned and sentenced to eight years in prison simply for sharing his Christian faith.
HUNT: So, what should we do?
CRUZ: Well, we should be speaking out vigorously.
HUNT: Is the president doing that?
CRUZ: The president raised it with President Rouhani and I’ll tell you, Al, I praise the president for doing that. That was the right thing to do, but we should continue to be – the idea that we’re negotiating right now with Iran to lift sanctions in exchange for a deal that wouldn’t require -
HUNT: Should we not do that until that pastor is released or even talk?
CRUZ: I think – I’ve introduced a resolution to the Senate that said a precondition for any discussion is that they release prisoners of conscience, including Pastor Abedini.
And I think this administration is making a mistake negotiating with Iran when they’re not even offering to dismantle a centrifuge -
HUNT: If that’s wrong, if that’s a bad, bad agreement, interim or not, should the United States seriously consider a military strike against the Iranian nuclear facility and if so, should the president seek the authorization of Congress to do so?
CRUZ: What I think the president should do and what I think a responsible president would do is make absolutely clear that under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear-weapons capability
HUNT: And if they don’t agree to that, should we strike?
CRUZ: And then we would use any and all means necessary to prevent them, including overwhelming military force.
HUNT: And should the president seek authority from Congress to do that?
CRUZ: Well, there have been repeated discussions with congress about Iran. There is overwhelming support in Congress.
HUNT: So, in your view, should he seek -
CRUZ: You know, the difficulty with a specific military action, particularly with the element of surprise, is that a commander-in-chief cannot publicly announce the specific time or what it intends.
So, ongoing consultation with Congress is important, but part of the value of drawing that line is it decreases the changes you’ll actually have to use necessary force. Iran will keep working towards acquiring nuclear weapons capability unless they believe the consequences of doing so are more significant, and right now I think this administration’s weakness on this policy is having the effect of encouraging Iran to move faster towards acquiring nukes and if it acquired nukes, I think the chances are unacceptable they would use those nuclear weapons against Americans or against our allies like Israel.
HUNT: Just a political question before we go, Senator.
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin says, Ted Cruz is a good guy. He likes you, likes a lot of what you do, but he says -
CRUZ: Whoa, please don’t hold that against me.
HUNT: You should not be considered as a 2016 presidential candidate because you’re a Washington person and the party needs to turn to people outside Washington. Is he right?
CRUZ: I’ll tell you this; I agree with Governor Walker that Hillary Clinton would make a very poor president. So on that, we are on the same page
CRUZ: I like Scott Walker. I think he’s done a good job standing up to unions in his state. What I think the next president should be is someone who is leading the fight for free-market principles and the Constitution, someone who’s listening to the American people, not listening to the established politicians.
HUNT: So, I’m not putting words in your mouth to say that doesn’t matter if they’re inside or outside of Washington if they -
CRUZ: 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?
HUNT: You’re just -
CRUZ: The greatest frustration people have in this country right now is that Washington politicians aren’t listening.
HUNT: You’re describing a real bona-fide conservative. Is Chris Christie a bona-fide conservative?
CRUZ: Well, they’ll be plenty of time -
HUNT: But, what do you think? You’ve looked at him, you’ve read a lot of him, you’ve seen him. Tell me what you’re gut feels right now.
CRUZ: Look, Al, I know you want me to criticize other -
HUNT: No, I don’t. You can praise him.
CRUZ: But, I’m not going to do that. I like Chris Christie, I’m glad he was re-elected. I think his blunt, brash style is refreshing and I think we need a lot more people in Washington who have the courage to stand up against Obamacare, against the failed Obama economic policy and turn our country around. We are facing a fiscal and economic cliff and we need real leadership to pull back from it.
HUNT: Are you going to run in ’16?
CRUZ: My focus is on the Senate. Good try.
HUNT: It was a good try. Senator Ted Cruz, thank you so much for being with us.
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