Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham at Odds Over 'Boots on the Ground'

The two senators disagree over whether U.S. troops will be required to defeat the Islamic State.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer

Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, two men who may soon face-off in the Republican presidential primary, often don't see eye to eye. 

On Sunday, Cruz further distanced himself from Graham by saying that the U.S. should refrain from sending ground troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 

"You know, I don’t believe right now we need American boots on the ground, and the reason is, we have boots on the ground already, with the Kurds. The Peshmerga are trained, effective fighters," Cruz said on ABC's This Week

A week earlier, Graham declared that "there's got to be some regional force formed with an American component, somewhere around 10,000" in order to defeat Islamic State fighters, and when Cruz made a second appearance on CNN's State of the Union, host Dana Bash brought up the philosophical divergence. 

"Lindsey Graham, your colleague who's there with you in Munich, has called for 10,000 U.S. troops on the ground back in Iraq to confront ISIS. Is that a good idea?" Bash asked. 

"Well, you know, we met today with the president of Kurdistan. And the Kurds on the ground are fantastic fighters," Cruz said. "The Peshmerga have been our allies. They have been our friends. And they're actually fighting every day to stop ISIS. Now, Dana, what makes no sense whatsoever is, the Obama administration is refusing to directly arm the Kurds. We need to arm the Kurds now because they are our boots on the ground.

"I don't believe it is necessary to put American boots on the ground if we are arming the Peshmerga. They're fighting there. Just today, they didn't ask us for boots on the ground, but what they did say is they need the weaponry to stand up and destroy ISIS." 

Cruz and Graham have frequently found themselves at odds over the past few years over issues and strategy. Last week, Graham called out Cruz over the Texans' call to block the nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General as a means of attempting to overturn President Obama's executive order on immigration. 

“Nobody is going to say that the executive order is illegal that President Obama appoints, so the idea that we would block an attorney general nominee until you’ve gotten somebody to agree with Sen. Cruz about the executive order is probably not feasible,” Graham said. “It ensures that Eric Holder stays in place for two years. It’s picking a fight that we can’t win.”

In 2013, Graham criticized Cruz over efforts to shut down the government over funding the president's healthcare law

"I want my party to reemerge as the majority party and I want to win the White House," Graham said  Shutting down the government takes attention away from the flaws of Obamacare, and it's not the best tactic."

For his part, Cruz has often sparred with Graham's closest political ally, Senator John McCain, and bemoaned his Congressional colleagues for not sticking to their principles



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