U.S. Senator for Texas
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Taxes and the South Carolina Republican Debate
Ted Cruz is a first-term U.S. senator from Texas who has established himself as an uncompromising and unflinching advocate for limited government and conservative values, and a staunch critic of Republican leaders in Washington, D.C. who he believes have joined with or at least are unwilling to fight big-government liberals. Cruz was the first candidate to officially announce his campaign, at an event at Liberty University on March 23, 2015.
Cruz has been called “off-the-charts brilliant” by Alan Dershowitz, a prominent liberal who was one of his professors at Harvard Law, and his legal career has shown a high degree of skill. He is a renowned debater and speaker, and his firebrand style has captured the support of many conservatives. He has a grasp for policy detail that is likely to serve him well in interviews and debates.
Cruz holds conservative views on nearly every issue, favoring fundamental tax reform and lowering the overall tax burden, repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a market-oriented health care system, opposing climate-change regulations or curbs on energy production, and taking a stand against crony capitalism by opposing corporate welfare in its many forms. He strikes a middle ground between the generally interventionist, hawkish wing of the GOP and the less-interventionist libertarian wing of the party on foreign policy and domestic security, and he is a strident advocate for socially conservative positions.
Cruz has many assets as a candidate, including his excellent communications skills, although one of the biggest concerns he will need to address is that he is seen by many as not being electable in November, or at least not as electable as some of his rivals for the nomination. He has struggled to get the Republican establishment behind him, something that could hinder his path to the nomination.
His very conservative views helped Cruz to win the Iowa caucuses, where he was also bolstered by an excellent campaign organization. He finished in third place in the New Hampshire primaries, doing much better than many thought he would in a state that has not traditionally been hospitable to socially conservative candidates, but third-place finishes in South Carolina and Nevada were considered disappointments. He rebounded somewhat on Super Tuesday, winning his home state of Texas as well as Oklahoma and Alaska, and finishing in second place in a number of other states. Since Super Tuesday he has won a handful of additional states and been the runner-up in most of the others, and is in second place in the delegate count.
Cruz remains a serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2016, having done extremely well with his fundraising, and even after beginning the race as an underdog has risen to become one of the three leading contenders for the nomination. His basic strategy of courting very conservative voters and building a substantial organization to support his candidacy has put him in this position, but it remains to be seen if it will be enough to carry him to the Republican nomination.
Ted Cruz was born in Alberta, Canada, to a Cuban-American father and an American-born mother.1 He held dual citizenship for both Canada and the United States, but as of June 10, 2014, he officially renounced his Canadian citizenship.2
Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, escaped Cuba in 1957 at the age of 18 after fighting for Fidel Castro’s rebel forces.3
Cruz attended the academically rigorous Second Baptist High School in Houston, graduating in 1988 as valedictorian. He went on to attend and graduate with honors from Princeton, earning a B.A. in public policy in 1992.4 He then attended and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1995, again with honors.5 During his time at Princeton he earned money for tuition by teaching Princeton Review test prep courses.6
Upon graduation from Harvard, Cruz clerked for U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist.7 Up until his assignment as the solicitor general of Texas in 2003, he served as the associate deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice, as the director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission,8 and in the policy shop of President George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. He also served on the Bush legal team during the recount effort in Florida.9
Cruz also worked at the law firm Cooper, Carvin & Rosenthal (now known as Cook & Kirk, LLC) from 1997 to 1998 and worked on matters related to the National Rifle Association and helped prepare testimony for the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton.10
He was the first Hispanic to hold the position of solicitor general of Texas and, at the time, was the youngest to hold that office in the country.11 During his time in this office, he authored more than 70 U.S. Supreme Court briefs and presented 31 oral arguments, eight of which were at the Supreme Court.12
After his tenure as Texas’ solicitor general, Cruz joined the Houston-based Morgan Lewis law firm as a partner. He practiced at the firm’s Washington, D.C., office until he took his seat in the Senate in 2013.
Cruz is married to Heidi Nelson Cruz, a managing director at Goldman Sachs in Texas. Heidi Cruz has also served at the National Security Council at the White House and was an adviser to President George W. Bush and then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice. She serves on the board of Living Water International, a faith-based nonprofit organization that helps communities in the developing world create sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene programs.13 The couple has two children.
On religion, Cruz describes himself this way, “I’m Cuban, Irish, and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist.”14
Cruz has been a mostly consistent advocate in the Senate for the issues and causes he campaigned on. The most notable example of this is his opposition to Obamacare, which he campaigned against consistently in 2012. He held a 21½-hour filibuster in an effort to hold up the Senate’s continuing resolution (the legislation required to keep the government funded and operating until a budget is passed) in an effort to defund Obamacare in the resolution.15 The continuing resolution was eventually passed (without the defunding provision Cruz called for) but not before a 16-day shutdown of the federal government.16
Although he has generally been consistent in voting with his professed views, he has reversed himself on a few issues that seem politically opportunistic.
His largest reversal was on granting fast-track negotiating authority to President Obama. A longtime proponent of free trade, Cruz cited concerns relating to U.S. immigration policy and an alleged secret deal by Republican leadership to preserve the Export-Import Bank in exchange for passage of fast-track authority and announced his opposition to the deal.17
Cruz also reversed himself on key immigration issues. He introduced an amendment to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill in 2013 that would give legal status but prohibit citizenship to most otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants in the country.18 However, in the fifth Republican debate, in December 2015, he said he opposed giving any legal status to such immigrants and rejected assertions that he previously held a different position.19 He also proposed significant increases to the number of H-1B visas for skilled workers but then announced in mid-November 2015 that he opposed any increases in legal immigration until the U.S. labor market improved.20
While there is little to suggest Cruz has failed to keep his word to voters, some of his Republican colleagues in the Senate believe he has not been fully faithful to pledges made to party leadership. Cruz promised his colleagues in the spring of 2013 he would not actively work to defeat Republican incumbents that weren’t sufficiently conservative, but in February 2014 it was discovered he signed a fundraising letter for a Tea Party group trying to beat several incumbent Republican senators, including Thad Cochran, Mitch McConnell and Pat Roberts. Whether Cruz broke his word likely depends on whether signing a fundraising letter constitutes “actively” trying to defeat incumbent Republicans.
Cruz has not hesitated to challenge his party’s leadership over principles. Cruz pressed ahead with his strategy to defund Obamacare despite Republican leadership’s opposition,21 and he has been critical of leadership over their approach to immigration as well.22
There is little to suggest unethical or scandalous behavior on the part of Cruz, although he failed to report during his 2012 campaign that he received a substantial loan from Goldman Sachs and a line of credit from Citibank that helped fund his candidacy, disclosure of which was required by federal election law.23 He did report the loans in ethics filings after he was elected.
He also failed to initially disclose on Senate ethics forms a promissory note related to an old investment in a Caribbean-based private equity firm, but he later amended his report once he realized the error.24
Cruz has received a number of distinctions throughout his career. As a litigator, he has a lifetime record of 23 wins and 4 losses in the courtroom. He has also won the “Best Brief Award” from the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) for Supreme Court briefs he authored in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.25 American Lawyer magazine named him one of the 50 Best Litigators under 45 in America in 2007.
Cruz has earned a following among Tea Party conservatives for his views, although he has not similarly endeared himself to his colleagues in the Senate. In a speech on the Senate floor, Cruz denounced the Republican majority leader for what he called a “lie” over a vote being scheduled to bring back the Export-Import Bank.26 Critics complain he has violated Senate decorum and used his position to promote his campaign, and generally has not shown an ability to work well with his Republican colleagues.27 One columnist noted recently, “No one in recent memory has made so strong a negative first impression in the Senate and then expanded it so dramatically among colleagues in both parties.”28
He was successful in attracting 15 to 20 of his conservative colleagues in the House to join him in his attempt to attach the defunding of Obamacare to the continuing resolution that was needed to avoid a federal government shutdown.29 The move was generally seen to have backfired and caused many to question Cruz’s political judgment. Few thought the strategy would succeed, the federal government shut down, and Republicans took a beating in the polls. The defunding effort also drew attention away from the near-immediate collapse of the Obamacare exchange website which occurred at the same time as the shutdown.30
Cruz is a stellar speaker. One profile had this to say on his speaking skills:
Cruz also is a fabulous communicator and articulator of conservative principles. Professor Alan Dershowitz, not noted for his historic sympathy for conservatism, said of his days at Harvard Law School, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant.” He won several different awards as the best student speaker in America, and Cruz was semi-finalist in the 1995 World Universities Debating Championship.
He is a very effective and unflappable communicator of conservative values, and while no one was Reagan but Reagan, Ted Cruz is the best articulator of conservative values at the national level since Reagan.
In September 2014, Cruz won the Value Voters Summit straw poll, receiving 25 percent of the votes at the annual conference. He also won the poll in 2013.31 He also secured the top slot in the December 2014 Federalist Society’s presidential straw poll, earning 26 percent of the vote.32
Cruz is the author of the book A Time for Truth, released in the summer of 2015 and making it onto The New York Times bestseller list. 33
Cruz sits on the following Senate committees: Armed Services, Commerce, Science and Transportation, and also the Judiciary Committee, the Committee on Rules and Administration, and the Joint Economic Committee.34
In late October 2015, Cruz unveiled his tax reform proposal, which includes two main elements – a flat tax of 10 percent on individual income and a 16 percent business gross-receipts tax to replace the corporate income tax. The individual income tax would include generous personal deductions exempting the first $36,000 in income for a family of four, as well as deductions for charitable contributions and mortgage interest for the first $500,000 of principal. The new business tax would function as a value added tax, allowing businesses to deduct the cost of producing a good or service as well as capital investments.35
Cruz co-sponsored a bill in 2013 that would repeal the income tax, employment tax, and estate and gift tax, and replace them with a national sales tax at a rate of 23 percent.36
Cruz is a signer of American for Tax Reform’s “No New Taxes Pledge” and has co-sponsored a bill that would make the ban on Internet taxation (the ability for state and local governments to tax online retail sales and Internet access) permanent.37
Although he was not yet in the Senate when tax rates on upper-income Americans rose under the “fiscal cliff” deal, he announced he would have opposed them had he been in office.38
Budget & Spending
Cruz proposed in mid-November to eliminate five federal agencies and departments as part of his budget-cutting agenda: the IRS and the departments of Commerce, Energy, Education, and Housing and Urban Development.39 He would also reduce the budgets for agencies he believes are “harming American households and businesses,” and he singled out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as one such agency.40 His campaign estimates this budget reduction would eliminate about $500 billion over 10 years. He also proposes a hiring freeze for federal employees.41
Cruz harshly criticized the 2015 budget and debt-ceiling compromise reached in October 2015, calling it a “complete and utter surrender.”42 He also voted against raising the debt limit in October 2013, criticizing the convoluted process for the bill because it “avoids clear accountability” and didn’t include structural reforms.43 He also opposed the 2013 Ryan-Murray budget deal that increased spending in the short term in exchange for more cuts in future years.44
He supports requiring a two-thirds majority vote to pass earmarks.45 He is also a co-sponsor of a bill that would amend the Constitution and require Congress to balance the federal budget.46 and he supports limiting federal spending growth to a per-capita inflation rate.47
As a senator still in his first term, Cruz has been active legislatively on the regulatory and labor front. Since coming into office in 2013, he’s co-sponsored bills that creates a full audit of the Federal Reserve system,48 requires congressional approval for major rules proposed by federal agencies (the REINS Act),49 requires an annual report determining the cost for federal regulation (known as Sen. Rubio’s National Regulatory Budget Act of 2014),50 repeals the Davis-Bacon Act (a longstanding statute that requires “prevailing wages” be paid on all federally funded projects, which means union wages),51 and implements right-to-work at the national level (making it illegal for employees to be fired for not joining a union – a national bill would make that the law in all 50 states).52
Cruz has also announced his opposition to “net neutrality” regulations from the Federal Communications Commission,53 and as director of the Office of Policy Planning at the Federal Trade Commission during the George W. Bush administration authored a memo spelling out a number of areas where anticompetitive regulations and barriers to entry should be eliminated, including teacher certification, hospital accreditation, and cable television. 54 He has pledged that if elected president he would use his executive authority to rein in many regulations. 55
Energy & Environment
Cruz has opposed federal regulation of fracking,56 has called on the Obama administration to expedite permits for liquid natural gas (LNG) exports57 (and considers American export of LNG as a way to supply countries like Ukraine, relieving them of their dependency on Russian gas), supports building the Keystone XL pipeline,58 and has co-sponsored a bill that would allow states to lease energy rights on federal land, including offshore drilling.59
Cruz is opposed to cap-and-trade legislation and to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon dioxide.60 He has supported bills that would prohibit the EPA from regulating carbon emissions without congressional approval 61 and co-sponsored a bill that would require the data determining that a species is endangered be published on the Internet.62 He has also co-sponsored a bill that would stop the EPA from expanding its authority under the Clean Water Act and its takeover of state and private waterways, along with requiring the EPA report the economic impacts of its proposed regulation under the Clean Air Act.63
He is also the sponsor of an amendment that would limit the federal government’s ownership of land by prohibiting it from owning more than 50 percent of any land within one state and requiring it to transfer the excess land to the states or sell to the highest bidder. Federal lands make up one-fifth of the nation’s landmass and over 50 percent of the land in Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Alaska.64
Entitlements & Welfare
Cruz supports allowing taxpayers to invest a portion of their Social Security funds in personal accounts that they own and control.65 Cruz supports gradually increasing the eligibility age for Medicare and allowing senior citizens to choose private plans available in the market.66 He also supports allowing Social Security to grow at the rate of inflation, as opposed to the current rate of 1 percent above inflation.67
One of Cruz’s key campaign platform items was to get rid of Obamacare, and he hasn’t stopped working toward that goal since being elected in November 2012.68 He held the fourth longest filibuster (21½ hours) in the history of the Senate while trying to persuade his Senate colleagues to include the defunding of Obamacare in the continuing resolution they needed in order to keep the federal government operating. The government shut down for 16 days as a result of the impasse, and ultimately the amendment to defund the health care statute was stripped.69
Cruz also supports converting Medicaid into a block-grant program that would allow states to design and implement their own program.70
In a May 2014 Wall Street Journal interview, Cruz described himself as “an unambiguous advocate of free trade” and stated he supports the development of a free trade agreement with Ukraine.71
However, in June 2015 he wrote an op-ed saying he would vote against giving Obama the fast-track trade negotiating authority needed to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He explained the agreement might impact U.S. immigration laws and suggested that Republican leadership in the House and Senate might have cut a deal with Democrats to preserve the Export-Import Bank in exchange for getting fast-track passed.72 Cruz has yet to take a position on the final deal, announced in early October 2015, but his campaign said the “agreement was negotiated by the same administration that negotiated the Iran deal and should be viewed in that lens,” suggesting he is unlikely to support it.73
In mid-November 2015, Cruz proposed suspending the H-1B visa program that brings skilled foreign workers into the country legally. He pledged to stop any increase in legal immigration until domestic labor participation returns to what he called “historical averages.” This represented a reversal of his past support for increasing the number of H-1B visas and green cards.
Cruz authored an amendment in 2013 to the so-called “Gang of 8” immigration bill that would deny citizenship but grant legal status to many illegal immigrants, although Cruz says he has never supported granting legal status to illegal immigrants.74 After remaining silent for some time on the question of what to do with illegal immigrants currently in the country,75 he first pledged to increase deportations with a policy of “attrition through enforcement” and more recently said he would use the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to find those in the country illegally.76
Cruz introduced legislation that would facilitate the expedited processing of unaccompanied minors coming in through the southern border and would require the secretary of defense to reimburse states for National Guard deployments in response to large-scale border crossings of unaccompanied alien children.77 He is a co-sponsor of legislation that would cut federal funds given to cities that don’t cooperate with immigration authorities, often called “sanctuary cities.”78
He has consistently opposed proposals that create a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, including the DREAM Act. He does support a focus on securing the borders,79 including sponsoring legislation to triple the number of Border Patrol agents and finishing construction of a double-layered fence on the border.80 He favors ending “birthright citizenship,” which gives U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal aliens born in the U.S. Doing so would require a constitutional amendment.81
On agriculture policy, Cruz has a limited track record. He has voted to limit the amount of subsidies available to farmers with incomes over $750,000 82 and has voted to end sugar subsidies and modest reforms in the current system.83 He opposed the 2013 Farm Bill because he felt it expanded the food stamp program too much and included programs unrelated to agriculture, such as green energy projects.84
Cruz has consistently opposed corporate welfare, including the Export-Import Bank85 and a travel promotion campaign called Brand USA.86
Early in his Senate career he introduced legislation to immediately eliminate the renewable fuels standard (RFS), often considered a brand of corporate welfare for ethanol and biodiesel producers. In 2014 he again proposed eliminating the RFS, although this time he said it should be phased out over five years, and he has maintained that position ever since.87
Cruz has voted in favor of farm subsidies, including a $3 billion crop insurance program in December 2015 that was scheduled to be eliminated under the budget deal.88
Banking & Finance
Since coming into office in 2013, he has co-sponsored a bill that creates a full audit of the Federal Reserve.89 He also supports allowing small and medium-sized businesses to opt out of the accounting restrictions imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley,90 and opposes Dodd-Frank’s regulations of financial institutions based on his view that they do nothing to prevent future taxpayer bailouts of failing firms while imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens.91
Cruz has been harshly critical of Obama’s moves to improve relations with Cuba, calling the policy a “tragic mistake.”92 He has introduced legislation renaming the street where Cuba’s newly opened embassy is located in honor of a Cuban anti-Castro dissident who died under mysterious circumstances.93
In his short tenure, Cruz has supported the installation of missile defense systems in Eastern Europe and has advocated that the U.S. be more outspoken in support of efforts to promote democracy in countries like Venezuela.94
Cruz believes allowing liquid natural gas exports is a way to free European countries such as Ukraine from their dependency on Russian gas.95
War on Terror
Cruz has been a strong critic of the National Security Agency. He feels it has been ineffective in identifying potential terror threats and not provided enough protection for law-abiding Americans.96 He has sponsored a bill that would end the NSA’s practice of bulk record collection and implement surveillance reforms,97 but he believes Apple should be required to help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists.98
Cruz has rejected the idea that waterboarding is torture and therefore impermissible in all circumstances, although he also said its use shouldn’t be widespread and introduced legislation preventing line officers from employing it.99
He has been supportive of Obama’s strikes against ISIS but has also called on the president to seek congressional approval for these actions.100 Cruz does not believe the U.S. should get further involved in the Syrian civil war 101, although he does favor “carpet bombing” ISIS and arming Kurdish forces.102
He has rejected calls for the U.S. to accept large numbers of refugees from Syria and the Middle East,103 although he has said the U.S. should be providing asylum for Christians threatened with persecution in the region.104
In a December 2015 speech, Cruz explained his view that the U.S. should not be in the business of toppling dictatorial regimes, saying, “We will not win by replacing dictators, as unpleasant as they may be, with terrorists who want to destroy America… For as bad as [Syrian President Bashar al-]Assad was and is, radical jihadis patrolling Syria would be a significant turn for the worse.”105
Cruz has said that if he had known what we know now – that Iraq apparently had no weapons of mass destruction programs – he would not have chosen to go to war.106 And he criticized President George W. Bush by suggesting the U.S. should have left Iraq sooner.107
Cruz has been highly critical of the advisory from former Attorney General Eric Holder’s office that said the White House would be within its legal authority to execute an American citizen via drone on U.S. soil if that person was suspected to be a threat to national security. During testimony before a Senate panel, Cruz was successful in getting Holder to admit that such actions would in fact be unconstitutional as it denied the American due process.108 He has also sponsored legislation that would expand sanctions against Iran.109
In March 2015 Cruz was among a group of 47 Republican senators who signed an open letter to the Iranian regime explaining any deal negotiated between the Obama administration and Tehran that was not approved by Congress could be undone by executive action of the next president.110
He has been a vociferous opponent of the deal that Iran and the U.S. finally agreed to in July 2015, calling it “catastrophic.” 111
Cruz, who has been a reliable ally of Israel, called for an end to U.S. support for the Palestinian Authority.112 In September 2014, Cruz left the stage after being booed during a speech at the “In Defense of Christians” summit in support of Middle East Christians. During the speech, he began to tell those present that they needed to support Israel and continued the message despite the audience’s growing boos. He stated, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you,” and then left the stage.113
Military Preparedness & Budget
Cruz is a strong supporter of the military and is an advocate for increased recruitment and for expanding the armed forces. He also authored an amicus brief in FAIR v. Rumsfeld, a case where he defended the ability of military recruiters to have equal access to university campuses that receive federal funds.114
Cruz criticized the Obama administration’s move to downsize the U.S. military, and he has proposed spending at least 4 percent of U.S. GDP on the military, which in 2015 would have meant about $718 billion in defense expenditures, compared with the $583 billion that was actually spent.115 His spending plans would include increasing the number of uniformed personnel by 80,000,116 an increase in the number of Navy vessels from 287 to 350, and an increase in the number of Air Force planes from 5,472 to 6,000.117
He has also questioned why the U.S. military has a $7 billion alternative fuel budget. He argues that it should be using more affordable conventional fuel sources, especially at a time when resources are stretched.118
Cruz said he would rely on the advice of military commanders regarding whether to continue to allow openly gay men and women to serve in the armed services, and he criticized the Pentagon’s decision to include transgender personnel, saying it took the military’s focus away from its mission and instead turned it into a “crucible for social justice innovations.”119 He called a proposal to require women to sign up for the draft as “nuts” and is strongly opposed to such a policy.120
Judiciary & Crime
Cruz has frequently attacked the Supreme Court for judicial activism, calling the results of such activism “tragic”121 and “lawless.”122 He is especially concerned about this in the Supreme Court and has proposed a constitutional amendment that would establish regular retention elections for Supreme Court justices.123
Cruz expressed support for the court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and accused the Democrats of “abandoning the Bill of Rights” in criticizing the decision.124 He criticized the Roe v. Wade decision for not following the Constitution,125 and in the wake of the court’s recent decisions in King (Obamacare tax credits) and Obergefell (same-sex marriage), Cruz has called for a constitutional amendment that would require Supreme Court justices to face a retention election every eight years.126
If elected, Cruz has promised to nominate “strict constructionist” judges that have “a solid paper trail” to prove their credentials.127 Cruz currently serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.128
Free Speech & Religious Liberty
Cruz has a long history of defending the First Amendment, most of which came from his time as solicitor general in Texas. He argued (and won) cases such as allowing the state of Texas to keep its 10 Commandments monument displayed outside the state Capitol,129 and allowing the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial, a large cross honoring U.S. military veterans, to remain on public lands in California.130
Cruz has defended the decision of a Kentucky county clerk to not issue marriage licenses in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, arguing that there should be “alternative ways to ensure that government functions are accomplished without infringing on religious liberty.”131
In a shot at campaign finance laws such as McCain-Feingold and the DISCLOSE Act, Cruz sponsored a bill that would require that any law that restricts political speech of American citizens be applicable, with equal force, to media corporations.132 Another Cruz-sponsored bill eliminated the limits on direct contributions to candidates in federal elections but in turn would require reporting of that contribution within 24 hours for contributions over $200.133
He demanded that then-Attorney General Eric Holder appoint a special prosecutor to look into charges the IRS had targeted conservative nonprofits in an attempt to silence them before the 2012 election.134
As a student at Princeton, Cruz wrote his undergraduate senior thesis on the history of the Ninth and 10th Amendments.135 The Ninth Amendment states that the people have many more rights that what is expressly outlined in Constitution. The 10th Amendment “reserves unspecified powers for the states.”136 In his thesis he writes, “The Tenth [Amendment] stops new powers, and the Ninth fortifies all other rights, or non-powers” and feels that these rights have been trampled on by “decades of jurisprudence.”137 He is listed as 10th Amendment expert for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Austin.138
Cruz believes that education decisions, like many other important issues, should be made at the state level and not by the federal government.139 He is a supporter of school choice and charter schools, 140 and he co-sponsored legislation to allow Title I federal education funds to be used at the public or private school chosen by parents.141
Cruz is also “emphatically opposed” to federal Common Core standards.142
Cruz is a staunch advocate of gun rights. As solicitor general of Texas he brought together 31 states to sign onto an amicus brief in a Supreme Court case arguing that the Second Amendment protects an individual right.143 He is the recipient of an annual award from the National Rifle Association meant to recognize “exemplary activities in the support and protection of the right to keep and bear arms.”144 He opposed expanded background checks and an assault weapon ban proposed in 2013, and was part of an unsuccessful filibuster effort to prevent the bill from being brought up (the bill ultimately failed).145
With the exception of the endangerment of a mother’s life, Cruz is opposed to abortion146 and also opposes public funding for abortions.147 He has co-sponsored bills that banned abortions performed after 20 weeks148 and prohibited the transportation of minors across state lines for the purpose of an abortion.149 As solicitor general of Texas he successfully argued cases before the Supreme Court upholding parental notification laws and a ban on the late-term procedure known as partial-birth abortion.150
Cruz has said he believes the definition of marriage is between one man and one woman151 but has argued it is up to each individual state to decide and not a matter for the federal government.152 He also has said the federal government should not have to recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple from a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage.153 He favors a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on the issue and allow each state to decide for itself whether to recognize same-sex marriage.154
He praised a Supreme Court decision generally seen as scaling back affirmative action, saying college admissions policies should seek to expand opportunities for minorities and low-income students without resorting to racial preferences.155
Some may continue to harp on his previous dual citizenship status, despite his renouncing his Canadian citizenship – something he didn’t even realize he possessed until recently. While it appears that he is cleared of the hurdle from a legal standpoint, it doesn’t mean that it can’t or won’t be a distraction on the campaign trail.
His wife’s profession, her reported earnings, and her employer (Goldman Sachs) could also be a vulnerability, particularly in a general election where populism is likely to be a headline theme, especially after it was used so effectively against Romney in 2012. Cruz comes from a far humbler background than Romney, however, and is a skillful speaker unwilling to back away from fights, so he is far better equipped than Romney to effectively challenge attacks on his wife’s career.
Cruz is seen by many of his colleagues as self-serving and egotistical, and he has been referred to as the most despised man in the Senate. Those in Republican leadership considered his filibuster strategy that caused the federal government shutdown a “tactical error” and “not a smart play”156 while Cruz considered it a victory. Simply put, Cruz’s unwavering and uncompromising persona is likely to be as much of a liability in a general election as it will be an asset in the nomination fight.
Cruz will also battle the perception that he is relatively inexperienced at this point in his career, having only served in the Senate since 2013. While he had a highly accomplished and stellar career prior to becoming a senator, there is little in his background to suggest he has much executive experience, something voters may hunger for after the generally poor management skills demonstrated by Obama, who also had only two years in the Senate before running for the highest office in the land. Born in 1970, Cruz may find his relative youth is seen as a drawback by some voters.
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