Sen. Ted Cruz said he doesn't regret bucking his Republican Party leaders while trying to block a vote last week to raise the nation's borrowing limit, accusing leadership of "trickery" and caving to Democratic demands.
In an interview with CNN's Dana Bash that aired Thursday, the Texas Republican said leadership abandoned the party's fiscal conservative principles when it agreed not to filibuster the Democrats' debt limit bill to allow the measure to pass on a simple majority vote in the 100-member chamber.
The deal would have allowed all 45 Republicans to vote against the measure while still ensuring its passage — a move that Cruz said is a "perfect illustration of everything that’s wrong with Washington."
"Republican leadership said is we want this to pass, but if every senator affirmatively consents to doing it on 51 votes, then we can all cast a vote no and we can go home to our constituents and say we opposed it," Cruz told CNN. "That sort of show vote, that sort of trickery to the constituents is why Congress has a 13 percent approval rating."
Senate Republicans initially were opposed to raising the nation's borrowing limit without also securing spending cuts from Democrats. But with the federal government poised to hit its debt ceiling by late February — a scenario economists say could trigger a recession or worse — GOP leaders were fearful of engaging in a protracted political fight they eventually would lose.
Cruz then demanded a 60-vote threshold to move ahead on the measure -- an unilateral right all senators posses -- in the hope of extracting concessions from Democrats. The move resulted in a dramatic floor scramble for votes, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and his top lieutenant, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, reluctantly having to switch their "nay" votes to "yea" in order to ensure passage.
A handful of other Republicans also switched their votes to support the bill in a move to provide political cover to McConnell and Cornyn, who are facing substantial primary challenges this year.
Cruz said that while he considers his Cornyn a friend, "I disagree with him on this."
Many Senate Republicans privately are furious with Cruz, characterizing his move as a political stunt that put himself -- and his public Image as a leading Tea Party figure -- ahead of nation's best interests.
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was openly critical of Cruz, suggesting the Texan's failed block of the debt limit bill was an attempt to bolster his campaign war chest by endearing himself with his Tea Party base.
"That's what this was all about. And everyone understood that," Corker said. "There was no game plan."
But Cruz and other Tea Party advocates said the federal government instead should significantly cut spending as a way of reducing its ballooning debt.
"What I said at the outset was I am not going to affirmatively consent to giving [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid the authority to do this because it's irresponsible, it is selling our nation's future down the road," he said.
Cruz also denies intentionally "throwing under the bus" McConnell, Cornyn and his other party colleagues who switched their votes to support the debt limit bill.
"I would like to see all 45 Republicans stand together and actually do what we tell our constituents," he said.
When asked if it "stings" when his party colleagues criticism him, Cruz told CNN that "as a human being, I can't control what they say, how they behave."
But "I can control what I do," he said. "Every interaction that I have with every senator, Republican or Democrat, is consistently civil, courteous, respectful, treating them with the dignity that they deserve."