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Senate Sunday features GOP infighting

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The internal Republican Party fissures laid bare by the recent surge of Donald Trump in the race for President took over the floor of the U.S. Senate on Sunday, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his allies battled publicly with Senate GOP leaders, fighting over the Senate’s rules and over the underlying direction of the GOP.

Senior Republicans took the opportunity to verbally rebuke Cruz, who on Friday had launched an extraordinarily direct attack on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of lying about a possible vote on the re-authorization of the Export Import Bank.

“There was no misrepresentation made by the Majority Leader on the Ex-Im Bank,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who repeatedly referred to Cruz as the “junior Senator” from the Lone Star State.

“I mean, unless you’ve been completely missing in action, you would know that this day was coming,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), taking his own jab at Cruz.

“I was told by Mitch McConnell and others exactly what he was going to do,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as many had been saying for weeks that the Export-Import Bank vote was likely to end up on an unrelated highway construction bill.

As for McConnell, he denied there was any “special deal” – as charged by Cruz – on a vote related to the Export-Import Bank.

“I’ve said repeatedly and I’ve said publicly for months that the Ex-Im supporters from both parties should be allowed a vote,” said McConnell, who did not mention the name of Cruz, or his Friday attack on the GOP Leader.

Cruz was not deterred, as he again charged that McConnell had broken a promise about a vote on the Export-Import bank.

“The American people deserve to know the truth,” Cruz told a group of reporters off the Senate floor. “And I will continue to speak the truth.”

But the effort by Cruz to block the Export-Import Bank, which has drawn support in more conservative circles, failed by a wide margin, as the Senate voted 67-26 to shut off debate on a move to reauthorize the agency, which Cruz and other opponents say is nothing more than ‘corporate welfare.’

Watching from the sidelines, Democrats were more than happy to fan the flames of GOP discord – this from Sen. Harry Reid’s spokesman:

Republicans also took issue with the way Cruz had made his attacks on McConnell last Friday, as they privately argued Cruz violated Senate rules by labeling the Senate Majority Leader a liar on five different occasions.

Sunday’s session began with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, reminding Senators about Rule XIX, which governs decorum during debate.

Hatch later went to the Senate floor, and urged his colleagues to debate with “courtesy and respect.”

“Squabbling and sanctimony may be tolerated on the campaign trail, but it has no place in the U.S. Senate,” Hatch said, in what was seen as a direct rebuke to Cruz.

Hatch warned Senators against bringing the “toxic elements of political discourse into the Well of the Senate,” as he clearly had been tapped by Republicans to respond to Cruz.

While Cruz emerged defiant from this battle, he had little overt support on the Senate floor on Sunday, as the candidate for President was unable to find ten other Senators to even force a vote to contest a ruling by the chair that blocked him from offering an amendment.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) also tried to force action on another unrelated issue, a plan to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood; but his amendment was ruled out of order, and Lee also was unable to get ten other Senators to force a vote to contest that ruling by the Chair.

That came about two hours after McConnell had taken another procedural step to force action on a bill to ban Planned Parenthood funding.


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