POLITICS
07/26/2015 04:52 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2015

Senate GOP Leaders Want To Put Ted Cruz In A Time Out

Win McNamee via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republican leaders spent a rare Sunday session scolding Ted Cruz.

The leaders wagged their fingers at the younger senator, accusing him of using his pedestal in the upper chamber to "pursue personal ambitions."

Cruz, a Texas senator who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, drew the ire of his colleagues for claiming the top Republican in the Senate lied to him. He accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) of going back on a promise he claims McConnell made to him about the contentious Export-Import Bank. 

On Friday, McConnell set up an amendment vote to reauthorize the bank, which provides loans to those purchasing American exports. That didn't sit well with Cruz -- a strong opponent of the bank -- who said he could not "believe [McConnell] would tell a flat-out lie."

In an attempt to get a vote on additional amendments to legislation currently before the Senate, Cruz utilized a procedural tool to overturn McConnell's decision to "fill the tree" on amendments. By filling the tree, McConnell is able to control more closely which amendments get a vote, and limit the amount.

On Sunday, the Senate voted on only the two amendments McConnell set up, blocking movement on one that sought to repeal Obamacare, and advancing one on the Ex-Im Bank in a 67-26 vote.

Ahead of Sunday's votes, three senior senators came to McConnell's defense, and argued others should not join Cruz in an effort to overturn the rules of the chair.

"If we render ourselves lawless, how can we expect our fellow Americans to respect and follow the rule of law?" Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Sunday in response to Cruz's actions. "He will create a precedent that destroys the orderly consideration of amendments. There will be unlimited amendments; there will be chaos."

In an impassioned 12-minute speech, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who serves as pro tempore of the Senate, took to the floor to scold Cruz for his comments about McConnell. 

"We are not here on some frolic, or to pursue personal ambitions," Hatch said. "We serve the people, not our own egos."

Hatch didn't stop there, adding Cruz's "misuse of the Senate floor must not be tolerated."

"We must ensure that the pernicious trend of turning the Senate floor into a forum for advancing personal ambitions, for promoting political campaigns, or for enhancing fundraising activities comes to a stop," he said.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R), Cruz's senior senator from Texas, also joined in on the scolding. He warned that if senators sided with Cruz to overturn current procedure, the Senate would descend into chaos and not be able to function.

Cruz shot back that his speech on Friday was consistent with Senate decorum because he was speaking the truth.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act," Cruz said, referencing a quote often attributed to author George Orwell. "It is unlike any speech I have given in this chamber, and it is one I was not happy to give."

Cruz again accused McConnell of promising him and the rest of the caucus that he would not allow a vote on the Export-Import Bank. 

"That promise was made and that promise was broken," Cruz said, adding that the pledge was also made to the press. 

In fact, McConnell has long said he would be open to allowing a vote on the bank's reauthorization, working out a deal with Democrats during the lengthy debate over President Barack Obama's trade agenda. Over the July Fourth recess, McConnell also said he expected the vote to be attached to a long-term highway funding bill. 

Cruz maintained Sunday he was told otherwise, and noted that it isn't unusual for a senator to try to overturn Senate procedure, citing 14 times McConnell did so as well. 

Cruz's fight with McConnell is the second example of Republican infighting in a matter of months. Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) stirred up his own tiff with the majority leader over a vote on NSA reforms, sending shockwaves through the party. 

The Senate defeated Cruz's motion Sunday afternoon, refusing to allow it a roll call vote.

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