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Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been a thorn in the side of fellow Republicans in the chamber for his no-compromise positions on key votes. On the Oct. 18, 2015, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, Cruz, who's running for president, defended his approach to host Chuck Todd.
"What the Republican majorities have done -- we came back right after the last election, passed a trillion-dollar ‘cromnibus’ bill filled with corporate welfare," he said. "Republican leadership joined with (Senate Democratic leader) Harry Reid and the Democrats to do that. Then (the Republican) leadership voted to fund Obamacare. Then they voted to fund amnesty. Then they voted to fund Planned Parenthood. And then Republican leadership took the lead confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general. Now Chuck, which one of those decisions is one iota different than what would happened under Harry Reid and the Democrats? ... They've passed more Democratic priorities than Harry Reid ever could."
We decided to take a closer look at one of the claims Cruz made -- that the "Republican leadership took the lead confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general."
Lynch -- the designated successor to President Barack Obama’s first attorney general, Eric Holder -- was confirmed by the Senate on a 56-43 vote on April 23, 2015.
Before she was elevated to the post, Cruz made his opposition clear, urging his colleagues to block her confirmation unless Obama reversed his decision to defer deportation for certain undocumented immigrants, an executive action Obama had implemented over the criticism of many Republicans in Congress.
Cruz’s main point, which he made to the media at the time, was that the Republican leadership was supporting Lynch’s nomination by simply putting the confirmation vote on the calendar -- which was its responsibility given that the GOP had won back control of the chamber during the 2014 midterm elections.
Phil Novack, a spokesman for Cruz, said that because Republicans controlled the Senate during Loretta Lynch's confirmation hearings, GOP leaders had the power to stop her from becoming attorney general but did not do so.
He pointed to a Politico op-ed during the confirmation fight in which Cruz wrote, "Senate Republicans have the power to stop this nomination. And we have a choice. We can honor our oaths to the Constitution—we can defend liberty and the rule of law—or we can confirm an attorney general who has candidly admitted she will impose no limits on the President whatsoever."
What Cruz left out is that because of the efforts of GOP leaders Lynch’s path to confirmation was, by the standards of recent attorney general nominees, long and torturous.
As Lynch was waiting to be confirmed, Democrats complained that the GOP majority was letting her nomination lag for a historically long time. When Obama, a few days before Lynch was finally confirmed, said that her nomination had been "sitting there longer than the previous seven attorney general nominees combined," we rated that Mostly True.
From Nov. 13, when Lynch was first nominated, until her confirmation, she saw her appointment stuck in limbo for 161 days. By comparison, the longest confirmation wait for an attorney general nominee going back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency was 30 days. The shortest was just three days.
While some members of the Senate Republican Conference, including Cruz, expressed concern about Lynch’s policy views, the direct reason for Lynch’s delay was that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted on passing a pending human-trafficking bill before taking up Lynch’s nomination. On the whole, the anti-trafficking bill was uncontroversial, but it had become a bone of contention between the parties due to a battle over some of its language about abortion.
After weeks of stalemate, senators reached a compromise on the abortion issue and, on April 22, passed the measure by a 99-0 vote. That cleared the way for the chamber to take up Lynch’s nomination. After senators passed a procedural vote by a 66-34 margin, they took up the nomination itself and it passed, 56-43.
Ten Republican senators voted in favor of Lynch’s confirmation -- Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Mark Kirk of Ililnois, Rob Portman of Ohio, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin -- and McConnell.
Senate experts said this chain of events falls well short of GOP leaders "taking the lead" to confirm Lynch.
"McConnell acted like a conservative leader of a fairly conservative party in the Senate, getting as much as he could before grudgingly allowing the nomination to go forward," said Burdett Loomis, a University of Kansas political scientist and longtime Senate observer.
Steven S. Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis and a Senate specialist, agreed that Cruz’s claim is problematic.
"It was Democrats who demanded action on the the Lynch nomination, not McConnell," Smith said. "McConnell removed obstacles to the consideration of the nomination, but that is far from taking the lead or championing the effort to confirm Lynch."
A postscript: After voting against proceeding to the nomination in the preliminary vote, Cruz became the only senator who wasn’t present for the official confirmation, reportedly because he was traveling back to Texas for a fundraiser for his presidential campaign.
"The cloture vote was the vote that mattered, I voted ‘no,’ and she was confirmed because Republican leadership chose to confirm her," Cruz told reporters at the time. "I disagree with that decision."
Cruz said the Senate’s "Republican leadership took the lead confirming Loretta Lynch as attorney general."
As the leadership of the majority party in the Senate, McConnell and his lieutenants had the obligation of having the chamber hold a vote on Lynch’s nomination, and McConnell, along with several other Republicans, did personally vote for Lynch’s confirmation.
However, Cruz’s claim glosses over the fact that Democrats were the driving force in pushing for a confirmation vote, and that McConnell delayed the nomination for longer than any similar nominee in recent history. This contrasts sharply with the impression Cruz leaves -- that GOP leaders were gung-ho about getting Lynch into office expeditiously.
The claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
UPDATE, Oct. 19, 2015: After we published this story, Cruz’s staff responded to our inquiry. Their comments have been incorporated into the article.
Ted Cruz, interview with NBC’s Meet the Press, Oct. 18, 2015
Politico, "Senate confirms Lynch as attorney general," April 23, 2015
The Hill, "Senate votes 56-43 to confirm Lynch as attorney general," April 23, 2015
The Hill, "Loretta Lynch on verge of confirmation," April 23, 2015
The Hill, "Senate passes trafficking bill 99-0, ending long abortion fight," April 22, 2015
MSNBC, "Ted Cruz explains why he missed final vote on Loretta Lynch," April 30, 2015
PolitiFact, "Is Loretta Lynch nomination delayed longer than 7 other attorneys general combined?" April 20, 2015
Email interview with Burdett Loomis, University of Kansas political scientist, Oct. 18, 2015
Email interview with Steven S. Smith, political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, Oct. 18, 2015
Email interview with Phil Novack, spokesman for Ted Cruz, Oct. 18, 2015
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