Sen. Cruz: Corrupt Ex-Im Deal Proves We Have Government Of, By, and For the Lobbyists
Today Senator Ted Cruz gave a powerful floor speech shining a light on the corrupt deal struck by Senate Republican leadership to allow the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. What follows is the transcript:
Today is a sad day for this institution. The Senate operates based on trust. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, 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. What we just witnessed this morning is profoundly disappointing. I want to describe the context of two preceding discussions.
A number of weeks ago when this Senate was considering Trade Promotion Authority, a group of senators gathered on this floor and blocked TPA for many minutes because they were pressing for the Export-Import Bank. They huddled on this floor and negotiated a deal in front of C-SPAN, in front of the world. Then, when they had their deal, TPA had the votes to pass. Shortly thereafter, we had a Senate Republican lunch where I stood up and I asked the majority leader very directly what was the deal that was just cut on TPA and was there a deal for the Export-Import Bank. It was a direct question. I asked the majority leader in front of all the Republican senators. The majority leader was visibly angry with me that I would ask such a question, and the majority leader looked at me and said "there is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal." Like St. Peter, he repeated it three times. He said "the only thing I told the proponents of the Export-Import Bank is like any other senator in this body, they could offer any amendment they liked on any amendable vehicle, but I gave them nothing, there is no deal, I gave them nothing." He was emphatic and he was repeated. Following that public discussion, Senator Mike Lee and I approached the majority leader afterwards, in which he emphasized again ‘there is no deal, I will do nothing, I oppose the Export-Import Bank. All I said is they can offer an amendment like any senator can to any bill.'
I went back to my office, and I sat and had a long discussion with my staff. My staff told me that afternoon "he's lying to you." That's what my staff said. "We have been around the Senate a long time. He is not telling you the truth." And what I told my staff that afternoon, I said "well, I don't know if that's the case or not, but I don't see how when the majority leader looks me in the eyes and makes an explicit promise -- and by the way, looks in the eyes of every other Republican senator and says that to every other Republican senator, I don't see how I cannot take him at his word when he makes an explicit promise." As a result, I cast my vote in may in support of TPA because I support free trade, and I felt I had no choice but to assume that when the majority leader spoke to 54 Republican senators and made an explicit promise, that he wasn't lying to us. Well, as TPA moved on, as it went to the House, it became abundantly clear, there was a deal. There was a deal in the House for the Export-Import Bank.
And so the second time TPA came up, I voted ‘no' because of that corrupt deal. Now I will note to the public, the majority leader and the Speaker of the House have repeatedly said ‘there was no corrupt deal, there was no corrupt deal, we made no deal, we made no deal.' That's one element of the background context.
Let me tell you a second element of the background context. A number of weeks ago when we were debating the Corker-Cardin bill, the Iran Review Act, there were a number of amendments that senators had filed. I filed an amendment that would actually put teeth in the "Iran Review Act" by requiring affirmative Congressional approval before sanctions on Iran could be lifted. Other senators filed very good amendments. Senator Marco Rubio filed an amendment calling for Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state before sanctions could be lifted. Our friends on the Democratic side of the aisle did not want to vote on that amendment. And in response, the majority leader cut off all amendments. I sat in the majority leader's office, and I urged the majority leader invoke cloture on Senator Rubio's amendment -- invoke cloture on Senator Rubio's amendment calling on Iran to recognize Israel's right to exist and setting that as a precondition of any lifting of sanctions. I argued vociferously with the majority leader that if the Democrats were so opposed to voting on that amendment, that was all the more reason because it was important substantively, and the majority leader said no, he would not do so, that invoking cloture on an amendment was an extraordinary step, and he wouldn't do so. So he cut off every amendment. He filled the tree. It was striking a minute ago seeing the Democratic Leader Harry Reid calling out the majority leader for filling the tree, for engaging in the same procedural abuse that that Harry Reid did over and over and over again in this body. Now the Republican Leader is behaving like the senior senator from Nevada.
What we just saw was not what the majority leader told you and me and every other Republican senator. What we just saw was not that the proponents of the Ex-Im Bank, like anyone else, could stand up and offer whatever amendment they'd like on any issue. What the majority leader just did is, number one, he called up that amendment. He called it up himself. Why does that matter? Because as majority leader he has priority of recognition. When he calls up an amendment, no one can stop him. He didn't just call it up. He filled the tree, just like Harry Reid. He filled the tree, blocking everyone else's amendment. By the way, I agree with Senator Reid when he said the Obamacare amendment is a cynical amendment. Of course it is. It is empty showmanship.
We'll have a vote on repealing Obamacare. The Republicans will all vote ‘yes.' The Democrats will all vote ‘no.' It will be at a 60-vote threshold. It will fail. It will be an exercise in meaningless political theater. Mind you, when we had a fight in October 2013 to actually stop Obamacare and defund it, the majority leader, then the minority leader, was opposed to doing something with real teeth in it to stop Obamacare. But an empty show-vote, that is a good way of distracting from what's going on. "There is a profound disappointment among the American people because we keep winning elections and then we keep getting leaders who don't do anything they promised. The American people were told "if only we have a Republican majority in the House, things will be different." Well, in 2010 the American people showed up in enormous numbers and we got a Republican majority in the House -- and very little changed. Then the American people were told, "you know, the problem is the Senate. If only we get a Republican majority in the Senate and retire Harry Reid as majority leader, then things will be different." Well, in 2014 the American people rose up in enormous numbers, voted to do exactly that. We've had a Republican majority in both houses of Congress now for about six months. What has that majority done? First thing we did, in December, is we came back and passed a $1 trillion ‘cromnibus' plan filled with pork and corporate welfare. That was the very first thing we did. Then this Republican majority voted to fund Obamacare, voted to fund President Obama's unconstitutional executive amnesty. And then leadership rammed through the confirmation of Loretta lynch as Attorney General. Which of those decisions would be one iota different if Harry Reid were still majority leader? Not a one. Not a one. This Senate operates exactly the same -- the same priorities. And let me tell you why.
It's not that this majority doesn't get things done. It does get things done, but it listens to one and only one voice. That is the voice of the Washington Cartel, of the lobbyists on K Street, of the big money and big corporations. You know, if you go to the American people and ask ‘is reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank a priority for you?' The standard response for most of them would be, ‘the what?' They don't even know what this is. Let me tell you what this is. It is an egregious example of corporate welfare. It is the American taxpayers being on the dime for hundreds of billions of dollars in loan guarantees given out to a handful of giant corporations. It is a classic example of cronyism and corporate welfare. And, by the way, among others, you know one person who had the clarity of thought on that? Then-Senator Barack Obama, who described it as a classic example of corporate welfare. That was when he was in the Senate. Now that he's in the White House, corporate welfare sounds pretty good. Now just about all of the Democrats are supporting the corporate welfare with the exception of Bernie Sanders. I'll give credit to Senator Sanders for standing up against corporate welfare. But every Democrat who rails against big money and corruption of Washington, every Democrat who styles himself or herself a populist, their actions on this matter speak far louder than their words. And when it comes to Republicans, Republicans also are listening to K Street and the lobbyists. Why? It's not complicated. The giant corporations that are getting special favors from the taxpayers hire an army of lobbyists that write campaign checks after campaign checks. By the way, these checks go to both Democrats and Republicans. It is career politicians in both parties that are kept in office by looting the taxpayer to benefit wealthy, powerful corporations.
The single-largest recipient of loan guarantees from the Ex-Im Bank is the Boeing Corporation. The Boeing Corporation had an earnings call where their CEO said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- but "we'll be just fine without the Ex-Im Bank. It's not impacting us. There are plenty of private loan alternatives out there." But you know, even though the market could provide, it's a lot easier to have compliant lawmakers rob from the public fist to enrich giant corporations. You know who doesn't have lobbyists? A single mom waiting tables. You know who doesn't have lobbyists? A teenage immigrant, like my father was, washing dishes making 50 cents an hour, struggling to achieve the American dream. You know who doesn't have lobbyists? A factory worker who just wants to work and provide for his or her children. They don't have lobbyists. And so what happens? Career politicians in both parties gang up with giant corporations to loot their taxes to make it harder for people who are struggling to achieve the American dream. Coal miners, in your state, they don't have lobbyists who are representing them here, the individual miners, while the majority leader teams up with the Democratic Leader to take from their paychecks to fund giant corporations. It is wrong and it is corrupt.
It saddens me to say this. I sat in my office, I told my staff "the majority leader looked me in the eye and looked 54 Republicans in the eye. I cannot believe he would tell a flat-out lie," and I voted based on those assurances that he made to each and every one of us. What we just saw today was an absolute demonstration that not only what he told every Republican senator, but what he told the press over and over and over again, was a simple lie. This institution should not operate at the beck and call of lobbyists in Washington. This institution, the majority and minority leader, arm-in-arm again, should not team up against the American taxpayers. It's why our children are going bankrupt.
Now we're facing an enormous threat with this Iran deal, a nuclear Iran poses the greatest national security threat to this country. And yet, the majority leader refused to do what he just did for the Export-Import Bank on Iran, refused to invoke cloture. That was an extraordinary step. If he was telling us the truth when he said there was no deal, why would he do what he just did? Well, 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. That has consequences for how this body operates. If you or I cannot trust what the majority leader tells us, that will have consequences on other legislation as well on how this institution operates. There are a host of amendments that the American people are focused on, things like defunding Planned Parenthood after the gruesome video. The majority leader doesn't want to vote on that. That's actually something the American people are focused on. He brought up his Obamacare amendment as a smoke screen because it's intended to fail. But you know what he didn't bring up is my amendment to end the Congressional exemption from Obamacare, the corrupt deal that Harry Reid cut with Obama. We've got to live under the same rules as everybody else. The majority leader doesn't want to vote on that because he doesn't want to end the cronyism for Members of Congress any more than end the cronyism for giant corporations who enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.
There are a host of priorities that the voters who elected you and me -- I would ask you to think about when you were running for the Senate not too long ago. Do you recall any of your constituents ever saying we want the Export-Import Bank? No. They want other things. They have other priorities, but those are not the priorities of Republican leadership. Sadly, today we have government of the lobbyists, by the lobbyists, and for the lobbyists. That is not how the United States Senate is supposed to operate.
A far more important amendment than bringing back this corporate welfare and cronyism is my amendment that provides that sanctions on Iran cannot be lifted unless and until Iran does two things. Number one, it recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. And, number two, it releases the four American hostages languishing in Iranian prisons. That is a far more important issue than enriching some more lobbyists on K Street and getting a few more campaign contributions. That's what we should be voting on. And accordingly, I call up my Amendment No. 2301 to the McConnell Amendment 2266 as modified.