Texas Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday broke with Senate conservatives to support a government funding bill that provides a boost in defense spending — along with money for public broadcasting, Head Start programs and the operation of Obamacare.
The move is out of character for Cruz, who five years ago orchestrated a government shutdown in the name of defunding Obamacare.
Just two months ago Cruz boasted that he’d voted against Congress’s then-most recent major spending bill, which he said included the “single biggest rebuilding of our military since Ronald Reagan,” at the expense of “a massive increase in non-defense spending.”
Now Cruz is in the midst of a tougher-than-expected re-election race, where GOP leaders, including a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky plan to help him.
Cruz twice declined to be interviewed about the bill by the Star-Telegram on Tuesday, directing questions to his press staff.
Cruz’s office did not provide a comment about his support for a bill that the conservative Club for Growth, which is running ads for his re-election, said “completely ignores the trillion dollar annual and perpetual deficits that are fast approaching.
“The bill ignores spending cuts recommended in the White House’s [fiscal year 2019] budget – including the elimination of several programs in the Department of Education and the overall funding level for the National Labor Relations Board,” Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs for the Club for Growth, said in a statement.
Tuesday’s bill provides funding for the Pentagon, as well as the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, for the fiscal year 2019, which begins October 1.
It includes a pay raise for Texas’s roughly 160,000 military service members, as well as money for 93 F-35 aircraft – more than the Pentagon requested.
The labor and health budget also provides funds for medical research and opioid abuse prevention. The fiscal 2019 plan would increase the agencies’ budget by $2.2 billion from the previous year.
Ninety-three senators from both parties voted for its passage. Usual GOP fiscal hawks Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, Mike Lee, R-Utah, Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, David Perdue, R-Georgia, Ben Sasse R-Nebraska and Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania all voted against the bill, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
It must now be approved by the House, then signed by President Donald Trump.
White House Director of Media Affairs Judd Deere said in a statement Tuesday that “the White House is supportive of the Defense-Labor HHS minibus and Congress’ efforts to return to regular order.”
The defense, labor and HHS budgets make up nearly a third of entire federal budget.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, a senior GOP budget writer in charge of the Labor and HHS panel said leaders from both parties combined the budgets on a single vote to entice Democrats to support a boost in defense spending, while insulating the domestic spending from sharp cuts conservatives sought.
“Republicans have always seen defense as their most important bill, and Democrats have seen labor and [health and human services] as their most important bill,” Blunt told the Star-Telegram last month. “I think by putting them both together, nobody has to be hesitant that their number one priority isn’t going to get the attention that they’d like it to have.”
Republicans control 51 seats in the Senate, but major spending bills require 60 votes to end a fiilibuster.