Would a Republican-controlled Senate be a hyper-partisan font of conservative legislation, or a grown-up group of legislators looking to help grow the U.S. economy? Evidently, it depends on whom you ask, if recent interviews by two of the GOP’s likely candidates for the 2016 presidential nomination are to be believed.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz both made news over the weekend by articulating very different visions of what the priorities of a Republican-controlled Senate ought to be if, as appears likely, the GOP takes control of the chamber in tomorrow’s midterm elections.
Paul appeared on three of the major Sunday morning talk shows yesterday, talking up his plan to prioritize the reform of business taxation in the U.S. as a means of enticing companies to repatriate what he described as trillions of dollars stashed abroad. He reasoned that firms that want to avoid a hefty tax bill under current law might bring much of that money back if the rates were lowered. The result would be more business investment as well as a tax revenue windfall that Paul said ought to be put toward infrastructure improvements.
“Let’s rebuild America,” he said. “Let’s do some nation building of America first. I think we can pass that. There’s bipartisan support.”
Paul also stressed his call for reform of the criminal justice system, including the elimination of overly harsh sentencing laws, and the restoration of voting rights for non-violent felons who have served their sentences.
Bottom line, he said, a Republican-run Senate needs to show it is serious about governing the country. “I think we should immediately start passing bills,” he said.
His counterpart from Texas, however, appears far more interested in confrontation than governing.
In an interview with Washington Post reporters Sebastian Payne and Robert Costa, Cruz called for a Republican Senate dedicated to confrontation with the Obama administration, including hearings “looking at the abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded this administration.”
Above all, Cruz said, he wants the Republicans to “pursue every means possible to repeal Obamacare.”
Paul also called for Obamacare repeal, but he did so in the context of offering some constructive ideas for moving the country forward. He also indicated that he would not necessarily support Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the current minority leader, for the position of Senate Majority Leader if Republicans win.
Paul, by contrast, is traveling across Kentucky with McConnell, offering his support in the senior senator’s reelection bid.
The contrast between the two is likely to play out as the 2016 election nears. (You thought election season ended tomorrow. So, sorry. All that changes are the names of the candidates and the distance to Election Day.)
Paul, as he showed in a speech on foreign policy last week, is consistently moderating his views in what looks like an effort to assure the Republican establishment that he is a serious guy who can be trusted with the reins of power.
Cruz, on the other hand, continues to take delight in sticking a thumb in the eye of the establishment, and seems unbothered by reports that he is increasingly unpopular with fellow lawmakers. Apparently, that’s a feature, not a bug, in Cruz world, where the Texas Senator’s strong appeal to the GOP’s hard-core conservative base depends on not just attacking the Obama administration, but on going after insufficiently doctrinaire conservatives.
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