The civil war in the Republican party rages on.
The divisions were on full display at the fifth annual Washington Ideas Forum on Thursday, especially between Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Ted Cruz of Texas, who spoke right after each other.
McCain said that while he “respected” the Tea Party Texan, he adamantly disagreed with Cruz spearheading a spending battle over defunding Obamacare, which resulted in a partial government shutdown last month. McCain said the reckless move forced a town in his district to rely on food flown in from food banks.
“I have to say, “Stop. You’re wrong, you’re crazy,” said McCain. “If I sound angry, it’s because I have met and talked to constituents of mine who are on minimum wage who had to resort to go to food banks… There was no chance of success and anybody that believe that there is, is very naïve about the Constitution of the United States.”
Cruz, in a separate interview at the forum, insisted he didn’t want a shutdown. And when asked if it was worth alienating himself from many of his fellow GOPers, he as “absolutely.” Cruz insisted he’d continue to fight Obama’s signature health law. “I think stopping Obamacare is the essence of pragmatism,” he said, adding it “would have been better to stop it before it happened.”
When asked about the Republican divide, Cruz said the real issue was the split between career politicians and the American people.
Former Republican National Chairman Michael Steele said Tea Party lawmakers like Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah were filling a power vacuum created by leaders in the GOP. He predicted there was “more bottom to hit.”
“For the first time you have a generation of elected officials who have come to the town who aren’t playing the game the way the game was set up to be played,” said Steele. “You can’t offer them a committee chairmanship or a perky committee assignment… They are the class that killed earmarks… they are turning the network upside down.”
Divisions within the party were highlighted on other issues.
When asked what Cruz “doesn’t understand about the world and America’s place in the world” McCain said he doesn’t know because he hasn’t had a conversation with Cruz on that particular issue. But McCain added, “I do believe that there are members of the Senate and the House and Americans who believe we can withdraw from the world. We cannot, and every time we have throughout history, we paid a very, very heavy price for it.” In August, Cruz argued against intervention in Syria in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack in the country. McCain supported a U.S. intervention.
The rift in the GOP has also been on display following Christie’s re-election last week. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florid and Cruz both took thinly-veiled swipes at Christie after the Garden State politician’s win. Rubio told CNN “I think we need to understand that some of these races don’t apply to future races.” Meanwhile, Cruz congratulated Christie but said “I think we need more leaders in Washington with the courage to stand for principle.”
Cruz was asked about Christie again at the forum but skirted the question if Christie was a real conservative. “I’m glad he won re-election,” he said, reiterating his argument that more lawmakers on Capitol Hill need to “standup and fight.”