Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), a lawmaker known for his mild temperament, launched into an impassioned speech on the chamber floor Thursday, lambasting fellow Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) for his role in the ongoing partial government shutdown.
“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side,” Bennet said shortly after Cruz spoke. “But these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.”
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The episode reflects heightened tensions between lawmakers on both side of the aisle who failed to advance two separate bills to reopen the government on Thursday. About 800,000 federal workers are expected to miss their second paychecks of the year on Friday due to the impasse, which has centered on President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign spending bills that don’t include $5.7 billion to begin work on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
During Bennet’s speech, which lasted nearly 25 minutes, he quickly grew fired up. He attacked Cruz’s role in another government shutdown in 2013 when the Texas Republican led a failed effort to block the Affordable Care Act. The government closed for 16 days while Colorado was still recovering from rampant flooding. The Washington Post noted that the event caused federal emergency funds to be held up.
“When the senator from Texas shut this government down, my state was flooded,” Bennet, shouting at times, said. “It was underwater. People were killed. People’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down.”
Cruz fired back after the speech, slamming Bennet for “attacking me personally” and saying he’d never “bellowed or yelled at a colleague on the Senate floor.”
“I hope I never do that,” Cruz added.
Bennet also lobbed a shot at Trump, saying it was “ludicrous … that this government is shut down over a promise the president of the United States couldn’t keep and that America is not interested in having him keep.
“This idea that he was going to build a medieval wall across the southern border of Texas, take [land] from the farmers and ranchers that were there, and have the Mexicans pay for it isn’t true. That’s why we’re here.”
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