Texas Sen. Ted Cruz intends to make his opposition to the Supreme Court's decision last week to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide "front and center" in his presidential campaign.
In an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on Sunday in New York City, the GOP presidential hopeful doubled down on his belief that the court had overstepped its bounds in both the marriage decision and in upholding Obamacare. And as a result, Cruz said, the justices should be subject to elections and lose their lifetime appointments.
"This week in response to both of these decisions, I have called for another constitutional amendment — this one that would make members of the Supreme Court subject to periodic judicial retention elections," said Cruz.
Cruz said that 20 states have a system in place where voters can choose to either keep or remove their judges if they "overstep their bounds [and] violate the constitution."
"That is very much front and center something I intend to campaign on," he said. "And marriage and religious liberty are going to be integral, I believe, to motivating the American people to come out and vote for what's, ultimately, restoring our constitutional system."
Cruz's vigorous response and call to action separate him from many of his 2016 GOP rivals in the wake of the two landmark decisions last week. Some Republicans were quietly happy that the court did not strike down the state exchanges in question in King v. Burwell, fearing that many Americans would be kicked off their plans and putting the onus on Republicans to come up with a quick fix.
Cruz instead took to the Senate floor on Thursday to blast the court's decision in no uncertain terms: "These robed Houdinis have transmogrified a federal exchange into an exchange 'established by the state.' This is lawless."
On Friday, he bemoaned on Sean Hannity's radio show that, "Today is some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation's history."
Other Republican White House hopefuls had more muted responses. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said that while he believed whether to legalize same-sex marriage should have been left up to the states, "I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments." Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said, "while I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law." And neurosurgeon Ben Carson said that "while I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court's decision, their ruling is now the law of the land."
But Cruz, with his call for doing away with lifetime appointments to the high court, had one of the most strident.
"The court's views are radically out of step with public opinion," said Cruz. "The Supreme Court follows the opinions of Manhattan and Washington D.C., but it doesn't follow the opinions of America."
Cruz also suggested that those in opposition to the ruling may have a legal way out of following the court's decision.
"The parties to a case cannot ignore a direct judicial order, but it does not mean that those who are not parties to a case are bound by a judicial order," he argued.
Cruz also said he believed that the court's decision not to strike down part of the president's signature healthcare law could strengthen the GOP's hand next year.
"The Supreme Court's decision has made 2016 a referendum on repealing every single word of Obamacare," he said.
Cruz said his unwavering opposition to both same-sex marriage and ObamaCare is what will make him stand out among conservatives in the crowded 2016 field. He's carved out a profile in the Senate as one of the most conservative members, leading the opposition to the implementation of ObamaCare in 2013 ahead of the 16-day government shutdown — a maneuver that drew the ire of many within his own party.
Reminding conservative GOP voters of his firm stances is what the first-term Texas senator will need to rally the base — he's lagging in polls in both Iowa and South Carolina, two early states with high evangelical populations.
"In the 2016 primary, you're going to have 15 candidates up there going, 'I'm conservative! No, no, I'm conservative!'" said Cruz.
"It's very easy for Republican politicians to stand up and say they oppose Barack Obama. That's not hard to do," he continued. "I think the question Republican primary voters should ask is, 'When have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?'"
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And let's hear from a man who definitely did not celebrate last week's big decisions by the Supreme Court. Since the court declared a right to same-sex marriage and denied a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is promising to fight both decisions. The Texas senator says he'll challenge not only Democrats but also his fellow Republicans. His concern about his party is a major theme of a new memoir. Ted Cruz's first interview about that memoir was with our own Steve Inskeep.
STEVE INSKEEP, BYLINE: Sen. Cruz is competing in a crowded Republican presidential field. He wants to stand out as the man most willing to stand against leading Republicans.
SEN/PRES CAND TED CRUZ: In the 2016 primary, you're going to have 15 candidates up there going, I'm conservative. No, no, I'm conservative. And what we see is they go to Washington and they don't do what they said they would do. I think the question that Republican primary voters should ask is when have you stood up against the Washington cartel? When have you stood up against leaders in our own party?
INSKEEP: When we met the Texas senator, he was wearing brown, ostrich skin boots, blue jeans and a red-white-and-blue checked shirt. He's seen wearing that same shirt on the cover of his book, which is called "A Time For Truth." From the first page, Cruz questions Republican leaders' commitment to conservative values. His book comes out just after those two big rulings by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.
CRUZ: The justices decided that they wanted to rewrite federal law and rewrite the Constitution. That's not the way our Constitution operates, and it is a sad moment for the court when you have judges seizing authority that does not belong to them.
INSKEEP: Did justices really rewrite the law here? I'm thinking of John Roberts' ruling, Chief Justice Roberts' ruling on the health care case where he said there was this phrase, which suggests that subsidies should not go to certain states but other parts of the law and the broader context of the law. When you read the actual text, it makes sense. Isn't that within reason for him to say that?
CRUZ: It's not, and as you know from my book, I've known John Roberts for 20 years now. He's an extraordinarily talented lawyer, and he's someone who knows very well when he's changing the language of a statute.
INSKEEP: What does it say to you that both of these rulings that you so strongly disagree with came from a Supreme Court where most of the appointees were from Republican administrations?
CRUZ: Well, it underscores one of the points really at the heart of my book, which is that the problem we have is not Democrats versus Republicans. It is a Washington cartel. I've said many times the biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It's between career politicians in both parties and the American people.
INSKEEP: Just the other day, you predicted that in response to the Supreme Court rulings that your fellow Republicans, Republican party leaders, would pretend to be incensed but then do, quote, "absolutely nothing." What makes you think that your fellow Republican leaders are so cynical?
CRUZ: Because they agree with the rulings from last week; both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling. This is why men and women across this country are so frustrated. I'll tell you, I just flew in from Iowa this morning. In Iowa, each town hall, I asked people how many people are frustrated with Republican leaders. Every hand goes up. And it's because on Election Day, Republicans campaign saying they're opposed to Obamacare. They support marriage. They'll defend the rule of law. They'll defend the Constitution. And they get to Washington, and they're part of the Washington cartel. With respect to the Obamacare decision, a whole lot of Republicans in Washington are thrilled that they don't have to deal with the issue in Congress, and even better, they can blame the court for it. And with respect to marriage, Republican presidential candidate after Republican presidential candidate had put out statements that have said this is the law of the land. We must accept it and move on. Those are word for word the talking points of Barack Obama.
INSKEEP: The court rulings did seem to clear away problematic issues for Republicans. The party has broadly opposed same-sex marriage, which in surveys, the public increasingly favors. When we met with Sen. Cruz yesterday, he was in New York City. By coincidence, it was the day of a gay pride parade. So many people were celebrating the court ruling on marriage that it was hard to move on the streets. But Sen. Cruz is not among the Republicans ready to move on. He is proposing to change the Constitution's rules for the Supreme Court. He says justices who are now appointed for life should have to stand for election to keep their jobs.
CRUZ: Twenty states have retention elections. They've put in place - if judges overstep their bounds, violate the Constitution, then the people have a check to remove them from office. I've called for that change. That is very much front and center something I intend to campaign on. And marriage and religious liberty are going to be integral, I believe, to motivating the American people to come out and vote for what's, ultimately, restoring our constitutional system.
INSKEEP: That is an interesting proposal to have votes on whether to retain judges. And you're correct that many states do have some form of judicial elections. But I'm interested in this because the concern of conservatives seems to be that the court was following public opinion. Same-sex marriage, for example, is much more popular than it used to be. How would having judicial elections make judges any less responsive to changes in public opinion?
CRUZ: Well, Steve, let me actually disagree with your premise. The court doesn't follow public opinion. The courts' views are radically out of step with public opinion. Justice Scalia, in his dissent, he powerfully pointed out these are nine lawyers. They all went to either Harvard or Yale Law School. There is not one single evangelical Protestant on this court. These are all elites on the I-95 Acela corridor. I agree that the Supreme Court follows the opinions of Manhattan and Washington, D.C., but it doesn't follow the opinions of America. If the values had changed so much, there would be no need for the court to act because people would have acted democratically to change their marriage laws. That hadn't happened, which is why the court stepped in and thrown out the laws that the people did adopt.
INSKEEP: His critique of the court is striking in part because of who is making it. Ted Cruz was once a Supreme Court clerk. In his memoir, he writes of his reverence for the institution and how hard he worked to get there. This son of a Cuban immigrant made it to Princeton, then to Harvard, then to the clerkship he'd been seeking for years. Still later, he argued before that court. All through those years, Ted Cruz was also struggling with his own behavior. His great strength for passionate argument could also be a weakness. He writes that he was unpopular in junior high school and had to modify his behavior to become more popular. After the year 2000, he says his own brash opinions cost him a chance at a senior post in the Bush administration. Cruz says that experience humbled him, as did the experience of running for Senate in 2012.
CRUZ: You know, one of the great things about our Democratic process, the way you get elected, particularly in a grassroots campaign, like the one that I ran in Texas and the one that I'm running now nationally, is you go to hundreds of IHOPs and Denny's and VFW halls, and you sit down and talk with people. And here's a real simple rule of thumb. If you're an arrogant little snot, you ain't going to win.
INSKEEP: Do think you're less cocky now?
CRUZ: Absolutely. And it's interesting because the attacks that are leveled in Washington, they go through almost an "Alice in Wonderland," through the looking glass inversion.
INSKEEP: You're saying you don't recognize yourself when people describe you as arrogant or whatever they may say?
CRUZ: Well, indeed, what they're doing often is projecting their own conduct.
INSKEEP: Cruz is referring to Republicans who are infuriated by his views in Congress. In 2013, he was blamed for contributing to a government shutdown. Sen. John McCain once apologized for calling Cruz a, quote, "wacko bird." In his book, Cruz gives as good as he got. He begins by describing a 2014 lunch where he argued with Republican senators. They were discussing raising the federal debt ceiling. Cruz contends that Republicans were executing a maneuver that is common in both parties. They were tweaking the rules so that an important bill could pass, even as they voted against it.
CRUZ: And we were told, every one of you should agree for two reasons. Number one, if we do this, it will happen and hallelujah, hallelujah. That's what we want. We want trillions more in debt with no spending reforms 'cause we're scared of this issue. We don't want to have a political fight on this. But number two, if we do this, the Democrats will have the votes to do it on their own, which means all of us Republicans can vote no. And we can go home and tell our constituents, we opposed the thing we just consented to allow happen. Now I was sitting there. To be honest, I hadn't gone to lunch intending to pick a fight, but as I listened to that, I was astonished, and I raised my hand, and I said, there's no universe in which I can consent to doing that.
INSKEEP: Wouldn't they say if they were sitting here, some of your fellow Republicans, you disagreed with them about tactics, and you've responded that this tactical disagreement means that they're wrong on philosophy and that they're wrong on strategy and that they're mendacious as a matter of fact. Is that really fair?
CRUZ: It's not a question of tactics. It's are you honoring the commitments you make to the men and women back home.
INSKEEP: Sen. Ted Cruz gives a one-word title to the section of his book featuring Senate Republicans. That word is mendacity, untruthfulness. In the book, "A Time For Truth," Cruz casts himself as one of the few willing to tell it.
MONTAGNE: And Steve has more from Sen. Cruz later today on All Things Considered. The Republican candidate suggests that some Americans may not have to follow the court ruling on same-sex marriage. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.