Quantcast
Connect with us

Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke entered Congress at the same time — here’s what they have accomplished

Published

on

Since launching his bid for U.S. Senate last year, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has painted Republican incumbent Ted Cruz as a senator whose national ambitions havedistracted him from his Texas duties. Cruz has questioned what accomplishments the congressman from El Paso has to his name.

How exactly do the two men’s records stack up? Their legislative achievements are easy to compare, given that both men entered Congress on the same day – Jan. 3, 2013.

They both joined chambers out of their party’s control. Two years later, the Republicans regained control of the Senate, while the Democrats maintained their minority status in the House – as would be the case for all of O’Rourke’s three terms.

Since the pair entered Congress, Cruz has introduced 105 bills, compared to the 65 bills O’Rourke has introduced over the same period, according to Congress.gov. The vast majority of those bills died in various stages of the legislative process, which is often the case with most legislation.

Cruz has passed five Senate bills into law, including bills authored and incorporated into larger legislation, according to GovTrack, an organization that tracks member voting and legislative data. Not included in the GovTrack count is a Cruz bill that requires hot air balloon pilots to undergo medical exams. That measure passed as part of a FAA reauthorization bill the Senate sent to President Donald Trump last month. Govtrack shows O’Rourke has passed three bills into law.

ADVERTISEMENT

Obama years vs. Trump years

For their first four years in Congress, Obama was in the White House. According to GovTrack, O’Rourke passed two bills into law while the president of his same party held the Oval Office. His first bill continued tuition assistance programs for service members. That measure was included as part of a larger appropriations bill in 2013.

O’Rourke’s other bill under Obama named a federal courthouse in El Paso.

Cruz also authored a courthouse renaming bill that passed under House legislation, one of three pieces of legislation he passed under Obama. GovTrack credits congressional members with passage if they’ve sponsored companion bills that passed into law. Another successful measure prohibited the U.S. from giving visas to U.N diplomats that previously engaged in terrorist or espionage activities against the United States. The bill came in response to Iran naming a U.N ambassador that was tied to the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

ADVERTISEMENT

When the Republicans took the Senate back in 2015, Cruz became chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space. In that position, he shepherded the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act through Congress. The bill, intended to encourage the development of the commercial space sector, originally passed as House legislation, but Cruz authored the companion bill in the Senate.

With Trump in the White House, O’Rourke managed to get his Express Appeals Act signed into law as part of larger measure. The legislation directed the veteran affairs secretary to start a pilot program that provided veterans with an alternative and faster route to appeal for disability compensation.

Meanwhile, Cruz has had three bills enacted under Trump. The first was a bill reauthorizing NASA that passed the Senate unanimously. The second was a measure to give tax breaks to victims of three hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – a measure that was incorporated into a larger House relief package that the president signed. Most recently, Cruz had his hot air balloon safety bill included in larger legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT

But legislative records are not the sole measure of productivity. Because it is difficult to get legislation enacted on their own, members routinely push for certain provisions to be included in larger bills, particularly through amendment processes both on the floor and in committee mark-ups. They also spend time fighting measures they oppose.

“(With) the way that Congress operates these days, much of it’s gonna be pieces of legislation rather than whole bills because now, the past two years in particular, Congress has done very little,” said Rich Cohen, co-author of The Almanac of American Politics from 2001 through 2010. “When Congress does act, the legislation often is comprehensive…They’re big bills and there’s a lot going on in them so it shouldn’t be surprising that someone would take credit for a part of a bill rather than a whole bill.”

Committee work is also a measure of productivity. Both Cruz and O’Rourke sit on their respective chamber’s Armed Services Committee. Cohen said neither committee churns out much legislation, but rather spends much of its time working on a massive yearly Pentagon spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

ADVERTISEMENT

Provisions members get included in those bills don’t necessarily show up on their legislative record. A list on the Cruz campaign’s website details 34 legislative accomplishments includes 23 provisions he got included into different NDAAs over his six years. And in several posts on O’Rourke’s Medium blog, he has mentioned multiple items he pushed for inclusion. But it’s not simple to verify either lawmaker’s efforts in larger bills.

“It’s awfully difficult…to prove it or challenge it one way or another,” Cohen said. “It’s the opposite of transparent. It’s difficult to figure out what happened when you have this 1,000 page bill with lots of moving pieces.”

Top three accomplishments

The Texas Tribune asked both Cruz and O’Rourke to provide the three legislative accomplishments of which they are most proud.

ADVERTISEMENT

The O’Rourke campaign passed along three measures that the El Paso Democrat saw signed into law by Trump.

  • Expanding Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care

O’Rourke was the primary sponsor of the “Honor Our Commitment Act,” which expanded mental health care through the VA to veterans with “other-than-honorable” discharges from the military. The measure was included an omnibus spending bill in March. In a blog post a year earlier, O’Rourke said the legislation was needed because “(20) veterans a day are committing suicide, and 14 of those we know are not receiving healthcare from the VA.”

  • Requiring Mental Health Screenings for Separating Service Members

    ADVERTISEMENT

Tucked deep within the NDAA for the last fiscal year is an O’Rourke measure mandating that service members leaving the military receive a mental health examination, in addition to the already required exit physical exam.

“Ensuring that our service members receive comprehensive mental healthcare evaluations prior to returning to civilian life is critically important because doing so increases the chances we get veterans the treatment they need,” O’Rourke’s said in a blog post when the bill was added to the NDAA

  • Permanently Protecting Castner Range

In last year’s annual defense spending bill, O’Rourke got a provision included to permanently protect the Castner Range, nearly 7,000 acres of land surrounded by the Franklin Mountains around El Paso. The provision was signed into law by Trump as part of a larger defense spending package. The bill prevents any commercial development in a space that O’Rourke said environmental activists have been fighting to preserve since 1971.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This is an incredible opportunity to ensure that we pass on Castner Range, and all that it means to us as a country, to not just this generation but the generations that follow,” O’Rourke said in a floor speech at the time. He also has a pending bill to designate the range as a national monument.

In response to the request for three top legislative accomplishments, the Cruz campaign sent nine. Here’s a sample:

  • Hurricane tax relief

    ADVERTISEMENT

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Cruz pushed for tax break legislation for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. The Cruz-led legislation ultimately was included in the final, larger relief bill that passed through both chambers and was signed into law by the president.

Cruz has used this legislation to attack O’Rourke’s voting record because O’Rourke voted against passage of the bill. O’Rourke has defended his vote by saying that the final bill didn’t have tax breaks as generous as those given to victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

  • Purple Hearts for Fort Hood victims

In late 2014, Obama signed an NDAA that included a Cruz provision allowing victims of the 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood to be eligible for Purple Hearts. Thirteen people died in the attack.

ADVERTISEMENT

“This designation is long overdue for the victims of the Fort Hood shooting and their families who deserve our prayers and support in dealing with this horrific act of terrorism,” said Cruz when the amendment was announced.

  • U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act

Cruz was the primary sponsor of this 2015 bill in the Senate, which was a companion to the House bill that ultimately passed This bill prevented the federal government from introducing further regulation on the commercial space industry for 7 ½ years. The bill also reauthorized use of the International Space Station through 2024.

“This legislation makes a commitment to supporting the continued development of a strong commercial space sector and recognizes the major stake Texas has in space exploration,” Cruz said in a statement at 2015.

ADVERTISEMENT

Cruz is the chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness and is from Houston, home to NASA.

The filibuster and the sit-in

Both Cruz and O’Rourke have had moments in Congress that elevated their profiles nationally.

For Cruz, it came just months into his first term, in which his outspoken opposition to the Affordable Care Act placed him at the center of a contentious government shutdown that lasted over two weeks and left many Republicans upset with him. Amid the efforts by congressional leaders to avoid a shutdown in September 2013, Cruz seized on an opportunity to speak on the Senate floor for 21 hours to highlight his opposition to the sweeping health care law.

But when he wasn’t railing against Obamacare, Cruz strayed off topic to keep the clock running on what is now the fourth-longest speech in U.S. Senate history. Most notoriously, the freshman senator read Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” from the floor.

On the south side of Capitol Hill, O’Rourke presided over his own marathon political gamesmanship three years later. Shortly after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, House Democrats staged a sit-in on the House floor to protest the Republicans decision not to bring gun control legislation to a vote. When the Democrats staged their sit-in however, House Republicans adjourned, resulting in C-SPAN turning off its live cameras and leaving interested Americans without an option to watch the remainder of the sit-in.

But O’Rourke quickly found a way around the situation by using his phone to broadcast the sit-in live over Facebook with a fellow congressman, according to the El Paso Times. O’Rourke’s broadcasts were picked up by C-SPAN and CNN while the Democrats held the House floor for over 24 hours. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberglater said that the Facebook Live streams related to the sit-in reached 3 million people.


Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

GOP strategist delivers devastating analysis of Trump’s ‘Make America White Again’ agenda on CNN

Published

on

Republican strategist Tara Setmayer on Tuesday delivered a brutal analysis of President Donald Trump's strategy to win reelection, which she dubbed "Make America White Again."

During a panel discussion on Trump ramping up his racist attacks on four Democratic women of color, Setmayer argued that appealing solely to angry white voters was the only hope he had of winning in 2020.

"It's 'Make America White Again,' according to the president of the United States, because everyone in the country is not welcome," she said. "If you have a deference of opinion, you're not welcome."

She then went on to document all the ways Trump is uniquely unfit to judge who does and does not belong in the United States.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump raked over the coals by WSJ for ‘politically stupid’ racist comments debacle

Published

on

In a brutally blunt column from the conservative editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, the editors scolded Donald Trump for being "politically stupid" by wading into a dispute between factions within the Democratic Party that has blown up in his face.

Under a headline reading, "Defining Politics Down," the editorial seemed less concerned with Trump's racist attacks and more with the fact that he has made his racism front and center as the country gears up for the 2020 election.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Dear NeverTrumpers: Either help or STFU

Published

on

Bill Kristol Max Boot David Frum
Over the past few weeks, you may have noticed that the NeverTrumpers — repentant Republicans and conservatives — have been offering up lots of advice for how the Democrats can win the next election. Their jackhammer advice has basically been limited to urging the party to disavow its activist, progressive members in order to secure the contrarian swing voters who cast ballots for Barack Obama twice, then switched to Donald Trump in 2016.

Before I offer up a come-to-Jesus moment for the NeverTrumpers, let me say that as many of you know, I’ve defended members of this exiled faction in the past, and continue to stand by the idea that we need to form a coalition to close the loopholes exposed by Donald Trump’s malfeasance as a means of preventing another, perhaps more dangerous monster from sashaying through the Trump-shaped hole in the wall. To be clear: I’m not talking about conceding on policy or platform planks. I’m merely suggesting a detente between voices who all agree that Trump is a menace and his presidency is an existential national crisis.

Continue Reading
 
 
 

Copyright © 2019 Raw Story Media, Inc. PO Box 21050, Washington, D.C. 20009 | Masthead | Privacy Policy | For corrections or concerns, please email [email protected]

close-image