U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a persistent thorn in the side of Republican congressional leadership, basked in the news Friday that House Speaker John Boehner was resigning.
As Cruz spoke at an annual meeting of social conservatives in Washington, the speaker was at the Capitol, making official what had surfaced earlier Friday: that he was stepping down at the end of next month amid GOP infighting on the Hill.
By the time Cruz took the stage at the Family Research Council's Value Voters Summit, he barely had to mention the Ohio Republican's name before drawing loud applause.
“You want to know how much you terrify Washington?" Cruz asked the crowd. "Yesterday John Boehner was speaker of the House."
"Y'all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is: Can you come more often?" Cruz added, turning offstage to Family Research Council head Tony Perkins and suggesting weekly meetings of the group.
Speaking with reporters after the speech, Cruz warned Boehner against surrendering to Democrats before leaving Congress.
"I will say the early reports are discouraging," Cruz said, according to video from the Democratic opposition research group American Bridge. "If it is correct that the speaker, before he resigns, has cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of this Iran deal, and then presumably to land a cushy K Street job after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama’s priorities — that is not the behavior one would expect of the Republican speaker of the House."
Formally announcing his resignation later Friday, Boehner rebuffed the idea he would capitulate on his way out. "I'm going to make the same decisions I would've made" before deciding to step down, he told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.
While Cruz has avoided direct attacks on Boehner, the senator has a record of prodding House Republicans into confrontations with their leaders. In private, the speaker has reportedly done little to hide his disdain for Cruz, calling the senator a "jackass" at an August fundraiser.
At the Value Voters Summit, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., introduced Cruz by tying Boehner's resignation to the senator's arrival in Washington three years ago.
"The good news is we're going to get new leadership in the House of Representatives, and I want to share with you why that's happening," said Bridenstine, who has endorsed Cruz for president. "It's happening because there was a newly elected senator who showed up and he started articulating principles that were consistent with the Republican platform and he started exposing the fact that Republicans over and over again were continuing to fund things with [continuing resolutions] that were antithetical to the beliefs of the people in this very room."
Cruz went on to deliver a more boisterous stump speech than usual, opening with new jokes about Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. He cracked that with Chinese President Xi Jinping in D.C. to see Obama, the media was clamoring to cover the "historic meeting of the world's most powerful communist — and the president of China." On Clinton, Cruz continued to poke fun at the ethical cloud hanging over her campaign and Democratic disagreements about how many primary debates to have.
"You know, in a few months, we may see the first presidential debate held at Leavenworth," Cruz said, referring to the Kansas prison. "You know, if they can project a rainbow on the White House, maybe they can put bars on the windows."
Photo: Bryan Snyder/Reuters