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Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet lets loose on Ted Cruz

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Sen. Michael Bennet, a moderate Colorado Democrat, excoriated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on the Senate floor on Thursday over Cruz’s position on the partial government shutdown.

In a 25-minute long impassioned monologue, Bennet accused Cruz of shedding “crocodile tears” over first responders who are currently being denied paychecks after Cruz made a speech pressuring Democrats to vote for a bill that would pay the Coast Guard during the shutdown.

Democrats blocked the measure, arguing that the entire federal government should be re-opened and all workers compensated.

Bennet singled out Cruz because the Texan led the movement to shut the government down in 2013 over his demand to defund Obamacare. At the time, Colorado had been devastated by floods and was temporarily cut off from federal government emergency support.

“These crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for the first responders are too hard for me to take,” Bennet said. “Because when the senator from Texas shut this government down, my state was flooded. It was underwater. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down. For politics.”

He added later, “I’m not gonna stand here and take if from somebody who shut the government down while my state was flooded.”

Bennet also attacked Cruz for voting against a major bipartisan immigration reform bill that passed the Senate with 68 votes in 2013 and was ultimately killed by House Republicans. Cruz opposed the bill, which would have funded border fencing and appropriated $46 billion to border security efforts.

Bennet, who began his speech by commenting that he not usually in the habit of making impassioned speeches and tries to work across the aisle, attacked the president’s long-promised border wall. He called the idea “ludicrous … creation of the president’s mind” and unpopular among the majority of Americans. (According to a Washington Post survey published earlier this month, only 4 in 10 Americans want to build a wall.)

“This idea that he was gonna build a medieval wall across the southern border of Texas, take it from the farmers and ranchers that were there and have Mexicans pay for it, isn’t true,” the Democrat yelled, throwing his hands up in the air.

Bennet went on to argue that many of his Republican colleagues — particularly far-right lawmakers like Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus — actually benefited politically from government dysfunction.

“If you think you have been sent here to dismantle the federal government … as the Freedom Caucus does, in my view, than a 9% approval rating suits you just fine,” Bennet said, “because you get to go home and say, ‘see how terrible those guys are’ … while you’re taking your pay, while the federal workers are not getting paid.”

Cruz accused Bennet of “banging the table” rather than engaging with “facts” in remarks he gave after Bennet’s speech.

“The senator from Colorado spent a great deal of time yelling, spent a great deal of time attacking me personally,” Cruz said on the Senate floor. “I don’t believe I have ever bellowed or yelled at one of my colleagues on the Senate floor, and I hope I never do that.”

As the The Washington Post pointed out, Cruz once called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor.

The Senate, which has largely stayed out of the headlines during the partial government shutdown while President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spar, voted on two measures to open the government on Thursday — both failed as expected.

The plan put forth by Democrats, which mirrored bills passed in the House, would open the government without $5.7 in border wall funding. The Republican bill to re-open the government included funding for the wall along with some other immigration proposals (changes to asylum and TPS, along with a DACA-like program), which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called “bad faith” attempts at a compromise.

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