Day 3: McCain vs. tea party senators
May 23rd, 2013
06:43 PM ET
1 year ago

Day 3: McCain vs. tea party senators

Washington (CNN) - Republican ideologies clashed on the Senate floor for the third straight day Thursday as a group of tea party insurgents took on one of the GOP's most senior and established members in an acrimonious dispute over how to move forward on the budget and the debt ceiling.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who has served in Congress for 30 years, lectured and chided his junior colleagues for not understanding the legislative process and for insisting the Senate accept their policy positions.

At issue was whether and how to begin negotiations with the House over the chambers' competing budget proposals. The group of younger senators, led by Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, said they would refuse to agree to let those conference committee talks begin unless they were guaranteed negotiators would not agree to raise the debt limit as part of those talks.

"We could go to conference right now today if the Democrats would simply say we won't raise the debt ceiling with just using 50 votes. We will debate it on the floor with a 60-vote threshold and actually be forced to find some bipartisan compromise," Cruz said.

McCain disagreed. "It's not the regular order for a number senators, a small number, a minority within a minority here, to say they will not agree to go to conference."

"We're here to vote, not here to block things. We're here to articulate our positions on the issues and do what we can for the good of the country and the let the process move forward," he added.

Lee said he feared negotiators would make a secret deal to raise the debt ceiling and that the majority Democrats could use special budget rules to pass it over GOP objections.

"They want to go straight to closed-door, backroom meetings. There senior negotiators in the House and Senate will be free to wait until a convenient or official deadline and ram through their compromise un-debated, un-amended, and mostly unread," Lee said.

"We were not sent here to affirm the way the Senate worked as Congress racked up trillions in debt, inflated the housing bubble, doled out favors to special interests, squeezed the middle class and trapped the poor in poverty," Lee said. "We were sent here to change that."

McCain chastised Lee for not understanding that budget resolutions, like the ones being discussed, aren't signed into law and therefore could not be used to raise the debt ceiling. "Maybe the senator from Utah ought to learn a little bit more about how business is done in the Senate," he said.

McCain also noted conference committees meetings are open to the public.

"For him to say this is a backroom, closed-door deal, either he is directly misleading or has no knowledge of how the budget conference works," McCain said as Lee stood near him on the Republican side of the Senate floor. "I don't know which one it is and I don't know which one is worse."

Rubio said that if the debt ceiling couldn't be raised in the budget resolution process he didn't understand why McCain would object to including that demand in the budget talks.

"We can be in conference today with the House, be negotiating at this very moment," he said. "I just don't understand the objection to that being in there."

McCain, who was joined by a handful of veteran Democratic lawmakers in the back and forth that went on for over an hour, said by insisting on a particular outcome before negotiations had begun would set a bad precedent for future conference committees on all types of legislation.

McCain has clashed repeatedly with his tea party colleagues. Earlier this year, he described some of them as "whacko birds" for raising concerns that the U.S. government might use aerial drones to kill Americans in the United States – something McCain said it wouldn't.

Cruz recalled the colorful parlance Thursday.

"It has been suggested that we are whacko birds. Well, if that is the case, I will suggest to my friend from Arizona, there may be more whacko birds in the Senate than is suspected."


Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. U.S. Citizen

    "tea party insurgents"
    So yes, the people are now the insurgents.
    And the governing elite are the "most senior and established members" (Bureaucrats).
    30 years as a government Lord is too long.

    May 23, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  2. SRD

    This not true these republican do what eleect to do repersent citizen McCain so out line that was just ask should challenger next time around think MeCain should.

    May 23, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  3. larry

    McCain is as blind and senile as the Libs. When is he going to recognize that "business as usual" in Washington is not going to work anymore. We need to get the old fossils like McCain out of there. Heck fossils like him probable have to have a guide take them everywhere because their memories gone and these are the people we are trusting to run our government!!!!

    May 23, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  4. Mary Ann

    Marco Rubio is one of the worst politicans that we have in florida and we have a state full of them.This guy is on an ego trip that will end when tries to become president in 2016. Marco Rubio wouldn't know the truth if it bit him in the butt!

    May 23, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  5. gwiz

    leave it to the repugs to try to set standards before negotiations begin. the repugs are showing just how stupid and out of touch with the rest of the country and lets not forget almost the whole debt is from 2 wars started in2001 and we didnt START actual payments till 2009. so dont blame the prez for payin the bills insted of borrowing 2 trillion from china . and lets not forget repugs didnt want to raise taxes on the rich cut off social programs for the poor and the fact that they wanted a flat tax system that would increase the amount of poor people and make the rich richer maybe the repugs need to take a current events class cause they dont even know there own history we're still cleaning up after having them in control for just 4 years we had a 2.2 billion dollar spending surplus and now were 16 trillion in debt because they started 2 wars then waited for the next president to pay the bills. you suckand should be ridden out of washington on a pole before they can damage our country even more

    May 23, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  6. sonnie3

    McCain is out of step. He needs to go
    He just don't seem to see the problems facing America

    Once a fair leader is now showing his mind is not working well. He would make a dam good democrat. We don't need the like of him on the conservative side. He just is not what he clams to be. Must be getting senile in his old age.

    May 24, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. sheila kind

    Being from Texas I must say that Ted Cruz is a whacko bird if ever there was one. He's a crackpot who also happens to be very dangerous for my state and my country. Too bad that it's unlikely he'll be voted out any time soon since my state is full of cuckoo birds, not to mention whacko birds as well.

    May 24, 2013 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  8. Nonsensical

    Ted Cruz is smart and therefore dangerous.

    May 24, 2013 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  9. Safejourney

    Finally McCain is TPers where to go

    May 24, 2013 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
  10. ak_steve

    The Tea Party is the crying kid on the block who took his ball and went home. Immature, uneducated and no idea how to play well with others. What a bunch of crying, whining babies.

    May 24, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  11. Thomas

    The TeaParty ,
    be carful what you pray for , you might get it !

    "whacko birds"

    May 24, 2013 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  12. Sam

    Senator Cruz=King Whacko Bird...

    May 24, 2013 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  13. ThinkAgain

    The group of younger senators, led by Mike Lee of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, said they would refuse to agree to let those conference committee talks begin unless they were guaranteed negotiators would not agree to raise the debt limit as part of those talks.

    The 'bagger folks are the tyrants, people. They don't believe in representative democracy. They put their narrow party ideology ahead of the will of the American people.

    How long are we going to put up with this nonsense? They act like spoiled brats causing a scene to get attention.

    Come November 2014, we need to VOTE THESE JERKS OUT!

    May 24, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  14. Evelyn Connaway

    The Republicans in Congress are a useless bunch of people out on a witch-hunt! For the last 24 years I have watched congress in action and politics in general, along with researching all their deeds both good and bad. I have watched them come and go in elections. We seem to lost some good ones, but have kept some of the worst ones and keep getting bad ones. They lie, cheat and steal from the American citizens. Instead of working for our country and the citizens – the GOP has worked against us. I watch them tell baldfaced lies year after year and day after day. Even though I sit in one room everyday, keeping an eye on my handicapped son, as I watch the TV on C-span while congress is in session and using my computer – I know many other people see and hear the same things I do. I watch them hold their kangaroo courts to try to prove things they want to prove – not the truth – just things to make the other party look bad. A sad and sorry bunch of people – the republican party.

    May 24, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  15. GI Joe

    Not to worry - those wacko birds will be voted out at the earliest time possible. We know who they are.

    May 24, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  16. Beefburger

    John McCain, you can come out of the closet now. We understand, it is okay to admit that you are a Democrat.

    May 24, 2013 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  17. Duh in NC

    John McCain is an idiot. He needs to switch his affiliation to the liberal side because he is in no way a conservative

    May 24, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  18. Duh in NC

    John McCain= liberal plant

    May 24, 2013 04:26 am at 4:26 am |
  19. Iamnotfooled

    These Whacko Birds are increasing the Democrats chances of holding on to the White House for decades.(Good)
    Better call your Republican Congressmen or the credit rating will go down again. Evidently they have not learned anything. What loons. Keep it up Whacko Birds!

    May 24, 2013 04:43 am at 4:43 am |
  20. Aret

    Fire them all.

    May 24, 2013 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  21. Bob D

    Just because it wasn't done in the past, it doesn't mean it can't be done now. I agree with the Whacko birds, that if the debt ceiling couldn't be raised in the budget resolution process he didn't understand why McCain would object to including that demand in the budget talks.

    McCain claims by insisting on a particular outcome before negotiations had begun would set a bad precedent for future conference committees on all types of legislation. Maybe that what they need, to change the format and they might be able to accomplish something, if before they know what they can and can not negotiate.

    May 24, 2013 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
  22. ghost

    Come on 2014. It is well past time for a change. GOP nut cases be gone. Not all GOPers are nut cases, like the police force covering for bad cops, when you cover for the ones that are then you are just as bad.

    May 24, 2013 05:20 am at 5:20 am |
  23. Marie MD

    Poor mcnasty. He unleashed the mutant from AK and stood for everything that is wrong with our country since 2008 and now he is being attacked.
    If anyone should know what a whacko bird is it has to be the Canadian born texas tea crazy troll.
    Please, please. Give texas back to Mexico!!! Keep Austin and San Antonio.

    May 24, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  24. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I don't know if Sen. McCain slept at a Howard Johnson the night before but suddenly his integrity, compassion and concept of country and how the legislative process works seemed to be finally beginning to come full circle for the first time in decades. I must say I'm proud of Sen. McCain for reminding his junior colleagues that country comes FIRST, before party ideologies and special interest.

    May 24, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  25. CraigM

    Senator McCain is, for whatever reason, doing everything he can to damage America and its peoples, its citizens. Letting 11M i+ illegal immigrants become citizens of this country (and that is exactly what it amounts to) is beyond belief and shows that he is no longer in tune with anything other than trying to mistakenly rounding up 11M votes for the GOP in future elections. That what this whole thing is about for both the Republicans and Democrats.......future votes! Shame on you Mrl. McCain, shame on you Lindsey Graham.........you are crushing the American Middle Class and destroying the America many of us love!

    May 24, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
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