In a stunning floor speech Friday morning, Republican presidential contender Sen. Ted Cruz accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of lying to Senate Republicans about whether there was a secret agreement to allow a vote on an amendment to extend the Export-Import Bank, which conservatives staunchly oppose.
Cruz unleashed his anger at McConnell moments after the Senate voted to move ahead on a highway funding bill that will include amendments to extend the Ex-Im Bank and to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The deal doesn't provide Cruz with an equal opportunity to bring up his own amendments, including one that would require Iran to recognize the state of Israel and another that would require members of Congress and the president to enroll in Obamacare.
Cruz said he pressed McConnell repeatedly on whether a special deal had been worked out on the Ex-Im Bank, but that McConnell had insisted there was no deal, and that supporters of the bank would only be able to offer amendments to the highway bill like everyone else.
But Cruz said McConnell went against his earlier remarks by reserving a spot for the Ex-Im Bank amendment, and shutting out most others.
"What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that, not only what he told every Republican, but what he told the press over and over again, was a simple lie," Cruz said.
"These 100 senators have to be able to trust that when a senator says something he or she will do it, even if we disagree on substance, that we don't lie to each other," Cruz said.
The highway bill has led to significant infighting among Republicans. On Thursday night, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., got in a dispute with McConnell over Paul's effort to attach an amendment to the bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.
McConnell, R-Ky., is eager for the Senate to pass the highway measure, which extends authorization for road and bridge projects for six years. McConnell wants to pass the measure in time for the House to consider the bill before it leaves for the August recess at the end of next week.
But limiting amendments while allowing Ex-Im to move ahead goes against McConnell's earlier claims, Cruz said. Cruz said his own staff warned him weeks ago that "he's lying to you." Cruz said he didn't believe his staff until today.
"I told my staff, the majority leader looked me in the eye, and looked 54 Republicans in the eye," Cruz said. "I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie."
"We now know that when the majority leader looks us in the eyes and makes an explicit commitment, that he is willing to say things that he knows are false," Cruz said.
Authorization for the bank expired last month and conservative GOP lawmakers are eager to prevent it from coming back to life.
McConnell added the Obamacare repeal amendment as a sweetener for Republicans, but Cruz called the move "cynical," and said McConnell isn't running the floor any differently than his Democratic predecessor, Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
"This Senate operates exactly the same, the same priorities. And let me tell you why," Cruz said.
"It's not that this majority doesn't get things done, it does get things done," he said. "But it listens to one and only one voice, that is the voice of the Washington cartel of the lobbyists on K Street, of big money and big corporations."