Day 3: McCain vs. tea party senators
May 23rd, 2013
06:43 PM ET
9 years 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.

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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. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    These three gop losers need to be kick out of office ASAP ,2014 mid terms and 2016 at the latest. Rubio ,Cruz and lee are the garbage of America ,and then theirs the teahage and sponge of the taxpayers money,. Bachmann!!!!!

    May 23, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  2. Evergreen

    They want their demands met before negotiations begin?! Strange...very strange.

    May 23, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  3. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Mc Cain and christi are the only two republican not detested by most American voters . Rubio won't get realected in Florida , the Cuban anchor babys can't save him because their all he represents. Cruz is probably an illigal and be kick out of office and deported ,and lee will probably go to the planet kalob with romney !!!!

    May 23, 2013 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    I agree with the Tea Party folks.........this runaway spending has to stop, and the only way to do it, is simply to more increases in the debt limit, or the debt itself.

    May 23, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  5. HenryMiller

    McCain needs to retire.

    And any Republican, or Democrat, for that matter, who can't or won't see that going on raising the debt ceiling forever should join him.

    May 23, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  6. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Mc Cain has class these other three teabag losers,none!!!! Rubio has no support in Florida and won't be realected,only the cinema will vote for him and the rest of us won't, do the math .

    May 23, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  7. Data Driven

    McCain the Moderate ... final election (one hopes) safely won. Too bad he changes his spots during election season, becoming indistinguishable from the "whacko birds" from the "tea party".

    May 23, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  8. Liz the First

    Fight, Fight, Fight!!! maybe if you're busy attacking each other, you won't be trying to destroy the country.

    May 23, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  9. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Um, Well,
    I am reminded of those Famous Last Words, We need to pass this bill so we can see what's in it. President Reagan had a budget agreement with Tip O.Neal. Tax Cuts for spending agreements. The iberal's won the day, the people lost to the tune of nearly 17 Trillion dollars now. Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me. Hang tough, Tea Party Senators.

    May 23, 2013 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  10. Scott

    Wacko birds is a correct characterization of a group of people in Congress who don't understand what they are talking about. And they are the whole reason why Republicans probably will not win the Presidency anytime soon. The Tea Party is too emotional to think clearly and make rational decisions. They are like a violent rioting mob. And they are no different than the morons who call for severe austerity in Europe. Arguably they are worse since everyone knows that Europe has not improved its deficit spending under austerity rather than talking in the abstract.

    May 23, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  11. desi anderson

    Mccaine and his tea party constotuents seem to be staging a gpod cop bad copv dilemma in reference to raising the national debt limit...this is something that baffles a simple countryboy like me more eo than killer aerial drones.

    May 23, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  12. Pete

    Better watch out McCain step on too many tea party toes and you might be looking for a new job at midterms but that'll be alright with me so have attem if you want tea partiers if you must !!

    May 23, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. nintex

    These new tea party know-nothings are going to get their behinds handed to them in the next election. I don't always agree with Sen. McCain, but this time he's right. Talk about arrogance from Cruz et. al. Come on, people, we've got our work cut out for us to get these bums out of Washington!

    May 23, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. J

    Pathetic biased reporting by CNN. McCain got schooled by Cruz but you don't see any of his comments in this article. No wonder ratings are so bad

    May 23, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  15. PJ

    McCain "chided his junior colleagues for not understanding the legislative process..................."
    They don't want to "understand". Cruz, in particular, is looking out for himself, and Lee is timidly following him.
    Cruz has been a bully from day one, and he has done nothing for Texas that I can see. He thinks he can be
    President. What a tragedy that would be.

    May 23, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  16. Norma jean.

    Isn't it about time for " one of the senior and most established members of the GOP " to step down?? This man is consistent these days ONLY with putting his foot in his mouth....He seems to think he has all the answers and everyone else is wrong....cheating,....uncooperative or crooked.!!.....Frankly I'm tired of his complaining and never an apology if he's wrong....which he often is!! I think it's time for McCain to retire......or shut up....which ever comes first!!

    May 23, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  17. Jinx9to88

    GOP makes me laugh.

    May 23, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  18. becky

    Therein lies the real problems in government today. Certain members of Congress will not do anything unless their views are accepted. Congress should not and does not work that way. No one state has control over the business of Congress just at those who set up the government made sure that each state had 2 senators and at least 1 representative in Congress. It is important that legislation include many different ideas and that members collaborate and yes, even compromise. If these three senators cannot do so then they really should not be there. Senator McCain has not won every battle and he has had to compromise or collaborate and that is probably why he is looked upon as a leader. We might no agree with him but we do listen to him and he listens to us. lThat may be why he has been re-elected to the Senate. There needs to be mutual respect for each other or Congress will fail in its role in government.

    May 23, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  19. Jim g

    McCain is old and losing a bit of his skill but he does understand that you will get nothing done demanding anything. The process is to work together and solve our problems as Americans ...not Democrats or Republicans. The Tea Party forgot that they took an oath to the American people before they took an oath to the Tea Party, which means more to them and which means more to Americans elsewhere. Remember you lost in the last election for your positions, in an election you should have won. Continue your path and lose again.

    May 23, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  20. Dennis

    Whacko birds is a proper term to apply to these political misfits,the Tea Party members.

    May 23, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  21. Deb in MT

    "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."
    Well, duh! I never thought I'd agree with 'whacko bird' Cruz about anything, but I'd have to say that the both Senate and House are chock full of whacko birds!

    Poor John McCain: this is what your crazy party has inflicted on the country, and now you are realizing it. You see, John, this is what you get when ignorant ideologues get voted into office by FOX brainwashed people: legislators that do not have a clue how to legislate anything and are absolutely determined to get their own way. Good luck.

    May 23, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  22. wade

    As long as Obama CUTS the budget in half I would be happy for a while. LOL.

    May 23, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    McCain is like a lot of older rep and dem. they think that because they have been aroud for 30 yrs they know all the ans. wrong that is a lot of the trouble. they have been in there to long. that is why we are in all this trouble in the frist place they have made themselves kings and queens . they have forgotton who they work for

    May 23, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  24. Former Republican, now an Independent

    Hats off to McCain for finally growing some backbone and taking on these fanatical obstructionists. It's too bad none of the other veteran republicans have the guts to back McCain up on what is right. Today, the Tea Party has all of the republicans in congress scared to cooperate on anything, even bills they were pushing thenselves two years ago.

    May 23, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  25. Homer10

    The crack in the Republican party has now gotten so wide, they can't hide it any more. This is a battle between the traditional Republican party, and the new trying to get attention Republicon party. These are the far right wing nut cases who are destroying the GOP. This could get interesting, stay tunes. This is going to get ugly, and it's going to hit the fan right before the November 2014 elections.

    May 23, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
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