Sen. Ted Cruz Is 'Cruz-ing'

The new senator has ruffled feathers, but is making a splash with conservatives.

At the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, confers with Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., the ranking member, during a recess in the confirmation hearing of Chuck Hagel.

Sen. Ted Cruz, right, confers with Sen. James Inhofe during a Senate Armed Services Committee recess.

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It's been coming out week, in a sense, for the new junior senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

The Tea Party-backed conservative who knocked off his better known and establishment-picked rival during the Texas Republican primary last year and "Cruz-ed" to victory in the general election of deep red Texas, has taken his firebrand-style right at the Senate establishment culture, ruffling feathers on both sides of the aisle.

During an extended, and at times contentious, Senate Armed Services Committee vote on Obama administration Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, Cruz was rebuked by senior Sens. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican, for "impugning" the war veteran's character.

"We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups," Cruz said as the committee deliberated prior taking a vote Tuesday. He also said it was a "reasonable inference" to assume that because of how Hagel presented financial disclosure information "there was something in there that they did not want to make public."

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Nelson and McCain said Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate and former Texas Soliciter General, had gone over the line with his insinuations.

"Senator Hagel is an honorable man," said McCain, a former GOP colleague of Hagel's who has also been one of his most vocal critics. "He served his country and no one on this committee should impugn his integrity."

A recent news report cites unnamed senior Republican senators chastising Cruz for his non-traditional approach.

"It's becoming a trend when you're a new arrival," one Republican senator told Politico. "They don't get to know the Senate or the other senators; they just start talking. And that takes away from [Cruz's] ability to be an influential legislator."

Cruz was unavailable to comment to U.S. News for this article.

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But grassroots conservatives, and others that spent money helping Cruz take down the favored-child in the primary, are cheering his performance as an equal opportunity agitator. He's the lead sponsor on (yet another) effort to repeal Obamacare. He has spoken up vociferously for Second Amendment rights in the midst of the Democrats' push for gun control. And he was one of three senators to oppose former Sen. John Kerry's nomination to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

"He's not going to Washington be something, he's going to Washington to do something; he's gone to Washington to try to change that and that doesn't always make you the most popular guy but it's important work to do," says Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth, a group based in Washington, D.C., that promotes fiscal conservatism.

Chocola, a former Indiana congressman, says the old-school, clubby Senate culture is what has contributed to decisions leading to the country's $16 trillion debt.

"We like people who haven't been there long enough to know what you can't do," Chocola says. "If he was sitting quietly in a corner like a good boy, as the senior senators are suggesting he do, people wouldn't be writing stories about him."

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Cruz's splash is being embraced by other well-regarded young Republican senators, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who also defeated a high profile GOP primary candidate en route to winning his seat.

"Happy to see @TedCruz came to DC to make a difference not just make some friends. He is doing very well!" Rubio tweeted Friday.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas' senior senator and a member of Republican leadership, has reportedly supported Cruz's style and even joined him in opposing Kerry. But Cornyn is also up for re-election in 2014 and many insiders speculate he's cozying up with Cruz in hopes of inoculating himself from primary opposition.

And while some political analysts have speculated Cruz may be eyeing a presidential run in the near future, Democrats back in Texas say he should be wary of the kind of reputation he builds for himself.