Dianne Feinstein was agitated.
The Democratic senator from California did not like the line of questioning she was getting from Sen. Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican from Texas, as she defended her so-called assault weapons bill before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.
Cruz was reciting from the Constitution. He then asked that given Feinstein’s position on the government banning certain types of guns: Would she also approve of the government banning books it found harmful?
“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein responded, expressing contempt for the question. She went on to point out that she had “studied the Constitution myself,” and “am reasonably well-educated.”
“I thank you for the lecture,” she added.
The heated debate between the two senators was significant. Cruz now admits he thinks his aggressive questioning helped draw negative attention to the bill, stopping it from ever having a serious chance of passing.
It also illustrates the kind of first-term senator Cruz has become. In his first 100 days on Capitol Hill, Cruz has been tireless in trying to shape the political debate in the Senate, from guns to Obamacare to drones to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s nomination hearings.
In an interview with The Daily Caller last week, Cruz said, “My focus every day in office has been on two things. Number one, defending the Constitution. And number two, fighting to restore economic growth.”
Cruz’s outspokenness has not gone unnoticed by his colleagues.
“He’s been right in the middle of almost every major debate we’ve had,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, told TheDC in an interview. “And that’s pretty unusual for somebody who just arrived and was just sworn in.”
Speaking by phone, McConnell said of Cruz: “He’s a force. Already.”
Asked if the 42-year-old Cruz is more outspoken than the typical freshman lawmaker, the leader said there’s “no question.”
“I say that with admiration,” McConnell said. “Now others, some people are saying that with a different connotation. I think he was fully prepared intellectually and temperamentally to hit the ground running and not, you know, be intimidated by the place. And I think that’s something to be admired.”
As his encounter with Feinstein indicates, the former Texas solicitor general is fond of talking about the country’s founding documents.
“Ted is one of these guys you can ask about any provision in the Constitution and he can recite it for you almost verbatim,” Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee said.
With all of his activity, Cruz is developing a national fan base of conservatives. He keynotes national conservative confabs, like the Conservative Political Action Conference. He is also comfortable taking the conservative message to the Sunday shows, once battling New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer on “Meet the Press.”
His supporters argue he can help improve the Republican Party’s image with youthful vigor, humor and a positive message. He often speaks of what he calls “opportunity conservatism.”
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|Texas Senator Ted Cruz|