ICYMI: Sen. Cruz Delivers State of the Senate Address to the Greater Houston Partnership
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Tuesday delivered the State of the Senate address to business leaders at the Greater Houston Partnership’s annual luncheon. Sen. Cruz discussed his legislative priorities and outlined upcoming battles in the Senate this fall.
Sen. Cruz’s speech is included in its entirety below:
“Thank you for welcoming me here. It is great to be with so many friends. I want to start by just acknowledging that this past week has been a difficult week here in Houston and here in Texas. And I’d like to start by asking all of us to recognize a moment of silence for Deputy Goforth who was murdered in Houston this past week.
“This morning, yet another police officer in Chicago, Ill. was shot. I’ll tell you for all of us, I’m proud to stand with the men and women of law enforcement, and I would encourage everyone here to take the time to thank a police officer, a firefighter, an EMS worker – to thank our first responders who rush into harm’s way, who risk their lives to protect each and every one of us, and who are finding themselves under assault right now at an unprecedented level. And it is my hope that we, as Americans, come together and thank those heroes who stand to fight to keep us safe each and every day.
“I’m very glad to be introduced by my wife, Heidi. Many of you know Heidi very, very well. She’s been on the Board of this fine institution for a number of years. More than a few people have observed knowing Heidi that Ted can’t be all bad if somehow he convinced Heidi to marry him. It helps that she is, in fact, legally blind. Years ago, I told her I was 6’5” and blonde, please nobody tell her the truth on that. And I’ll tell you Heidi is an amazing businesswoman. She is an incredible wife. She is a phenomenal mom. And she is my best friend in the whole wide world.
“Now what you may not know is before she was a business leader in the City of Houston, she started out as an entrepreneur at a much younger age. Heidi started her first business at the age of six. When she was growing up in California, she and her brother went to their parents and they said, ‘We want an allowance.’ And Heidi’s dad in particular is a tough guy – he climbed Mount Everest, to give you a household Heidi was raised in – and he said, ‘Well why should you get an allowance? Why don’t you start a business?’ So she and her brother started competing bread baking businesses, where starting at age 6, Heidi called hers ‘Heidi’s Bread Bakery.’ Starting at age 6, she spent about three hours a day baking loaves of bread, and then they’d go down to the local apple orchard on the weekend. And this 6-year-old, little, blonde girl would say, “Excuse me, mister. Would you buy my loaf of bread?” And she, in grade school, sold tens of thousands of loaves of bread – actually saved up a lot of money that she used to help pay her way through college selling bread as a little girl. And by the way, competing with her brother in a very cutthroat business environment.
“You know, I couldn’t help but think about that a few weeks ago. We did a bus tour through the South, through what they’re calling the SEC Primary. And we brought our little girls, Caroline and Catherine, and the girls set up lemonade stands. As we did each bus tour, Caroline and Catherine would compete to sell lemonade. On the bus tour, it made me think you know, we’ve seen in recent days that anyone who’s trying to start a small business, whether they’re a little girl baking bread or with a lemonade stand or whether they're a Houston energy entrepreneur is discovering a much more difficult environment for starting a small business, is discovering taxes and regulations coming from Washington that are hammering small businesses. And it's getting harder and harder to create jobs. You know, one example that everyone here is aware of is the federal government's proposed new ozone regulations and the impact that they're going to have on the country, on the State of Texas, and especially here in the City of Houston. The proposed clean power plan regulation is the most expensive regulation ever issued to the American public. It's expected to cost our nation between $270 billion and $310 billion each and every year. Our state alone could see a loss of up to $48 billion in gross product for the State of Texas. At a time when we have stagnant economic growth, the last thing the federal government should be doing is putting another $300 billion of regulatory costs on the job creators of this country.
“But the regulatory agenda is not just limiting the oil and gas industry. It's not just limiting the coal industry. It's not just limiting the energy sector. Texas, here, leads the nation as the state that exports the most, and our very own Port of Houston is the leading export port in the country, one of the great strengths of the Gulf Coast. It is responsible for roughly $500 billion in economic activity and supports more than 2.1 million jobs. And yet, the federal government rather than facilitate the exports of the Port of Houston is making it more difficult. The Port of Houston contributes roughly $100 million annually in taxes to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, and although those taxes are supposed to be used exclusively for maintaining the ports, the Port of Houston only gets back about $30 million of that $100 million for maintenance and dredging activities. The money that goes into the Fund from the Port of Houston should be returned to maintaining and dredging the Port of Houston. And without adequate funds to maintain the Port it needs; right now only about 5 percent of Houston Ship Channel and related channels are dredged to its full width and depth. Imagine how much more business could be generated if they were able to travel through more than 5 percent of the Ship Channel at full width and depth.
That's one of the reasons that I supported the Water Resources and Development Act, which mandated any increases in percentages of the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund be devoted to actually maintaining our ports.
“Another area where Houston has long led the country is in space and space exploration. One of the great privileges that I have serving in the Senate is that I am the Chairman of the Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, and in that role, I introduced the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. I'm very proud to tell you the Senate has already passed the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, and the House is expected to do so as well later this year.
This legislation provides NASA, the International Space Station, with nearly a decade of mission certainty by extending the operation Space Station until 2024. Additionally, we extend the current policy of the United States by providing a five-year extension of the regulatory learning period through 2020 so that the commercial space sector can continue to mature and experiment and innovate and demonstrate readiness.
“In addition, on the commercial space side, we're all very proud the Ellington Airport became the tenth U.S. airport and the second in Texas after Midland to be licensed by the FAA as a commercial spaceport. Not only is this a well-deserved distinction, but it also provides a perfect example of how Houston continues to lead the way in space for the 21st century.
“Another piece of legislation I was proud to lead on concerns the men and women of Fort Hood. Our hearts broke five and a half years ago with the tragic terrorist attack that occurred at Fort Hood, when Nidal Hasan murdered 14 innocent souls including an unborn child. Now Nidal Hasan, as we know, had communicated with radical Islamic clerics with al-Awlaki, had inquired about the permissibility of waging Jihad against his fellow service men and women. When Nidal Hasan walked through Fort Hood murdering his fellow soldiers he cried out 'Anwar al-Awlaki' as he pulled the trigger and killed those brave soldiers. And yet inexplicably, the Obama Pentagon categorized that terrorist attack as workplace violence, and accordingly denied those soldiers the Purple Heart.
“Last year, I was proud to introduce legislation in the Senate Armed Services Committee on which I serve, mandating that the soldiers who were killed at Fort Hood receive the Purple Heart. The Obama Pentagon fought against that legislation, yet I was very proud to receive the support of both Democratic Senators and Republican Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee. We passed that legislation in December, and in April finally, finally, finally those heroes were awarded the Purple Heart. When I attended that ceremony, when I visited with the families, with the husbands and wives, with the children, with the parents of the soldiers who were murdered, it was all I could say to simply say 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry it's taken over five years to recognize your loved one's sacrifice, to recognize that they gave their lives defending this nation from radical Islamic terrorists.’
“Now, this address is focused on the state of the Senate. Heading forward in just over a week the Senate will return, and the first two things on the agenda are likely to be major battles. The first major battle will be over the Iranian nuclear deal. In my view, this Iranian nuclear deal is nothing short of catastrophic. Indeed, I do not think there is a more important vote that any member of the Senate or any member of the House will cast than this upcoming vote on the Iranian nuclear deal. Anyone, I believe, who fairly and objectively examines the details of this agreement will be left with the unavoidable conclusion that this poses a profound threat to U.S. national security. If this deal goes through, three consequences will go through.
“The first is that the Obama Administration will become quite literally the world's leading financier of radial Islamic terrorism. Now in response to that, President Obama got very upset when I said that. He took time out of his busy travel abroad - in between the eighth and ninth holes - to attack me directly and to say, ‘it was ridiculous that Cruz would say such a thing.’ ‘That rhetoric was too much,’ he said. ‘You cannot say that.’ I'm going to suggest to you a very simple principle: truth is not rhetoric. And in the course of his attack, the President didn't actually bother to dispute the substance of what I said so let's for a moment review the facts.
“Fact number one: Iran is today the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
“Fact number two: If this deal goes through, over $100 billion will flow directly to Iran, to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and to the mullahs.
“And fact number three: If that occurs, billions of those dollars will go directly to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the Houthis, to radical Islamic terrorists across the globe who use those billions to murder Americans, to murder Israelis, and to murder Europeans.
“Those are the facts, and it makes no sense when you have a nation led by a theocratic zealot who pledges 'Death to America', for us to allow a hundred billion dollars to go to fund the Ayatollah carrying through on that promise.
“The second major consequence of this deal going through is that it abandons four American hostages languishing in Iranian prisons. Among those hostages is Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American citizen sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for the crime of preaching the gospel. Sadly, this deal does nothing to free four American citizens, hostages in Iran.
But the third consequence of this deal, and in many ways the most dangerous is that it facilitates and accelerates Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons. There are elements of this deal that on their face are utterly indefensible. This deal provides in effect a 24-days notice period before any facility is inspected. Now, I would encourage any defender of this deal to articulate any coherent rationale for giving Iran a 24-days advance notice. You'll recall early on the President promised anytime, anywhere inspections. That's become 24-days advance notice. Imagine in the domestic law enforcement context. Imagine if Texas passed a law before any search warrant can be executed on a drug lord, that drug lord will get 24-days notice of the property needing to be searched. That will be a rule designed to guarantee that every search comes up with nothing. I mean even the dumbest drug lord on earth with 24-days notice would know enough to make sure there was nothing to find. But as ridiculous as that is, that's not the end of this so-called inspections regime. Because in that scenario, even after 24-days, you actually send in law enforcement to execute the search warrant. In this case, this deal doesn't send in American inspectors. It doesn't send international inspectors. This deal trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves. Let me repeat that. This deal trusts the Iranians to inspect themselves. Let's go back to the drug dealer analogy. Have any of you seen the movie 'Scarface'? This is the equivalent of law enforcement picking up the phone and calling Tony Montana and saying, 'Hey Tony, you got any drugs?' 'I don't got no drugs.' 'Okay, Tony.' That's essentially the Iranian nuclear inspections regime.
“Now some might say, 'What's the threat in that?' While this agreement was being negotiated, in the middle of the negotiation a senior Iranian General tweeted out to the world, 'The annihilation of Israel is non-negotiable.' Apparently, that was not sufficient to back off our Administration from continuing to negotiate this deal. In the midst of negotiating this deal, the Iranian military set up a mock of a U.S. naval ship and practiced military exercises bombing the U.S. naval ship. While were negotiating with them, they're practicing bombing our naval ships. In the midst of negotiating this deal, the so-called Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khameini led thousands of Iranians in chanting 'Death to America,' while they burned American and Israeli flags, and yet we continue negotiating with them. There is a reason that Iran calls Israel 'the Little Satan' and America 'the Great Satan.'
“And I would note by the way, to understand the magnitude of the threat, the single most dangerous thing Iran could do with a single nuclear weapon is put it on a ship anywhere up and down the Atlantic or anywhere in the Gulf Coast and fire a missile straight into the air, up into the atmosphere. If you get high enough, it sets off what's called an EMP, an electromagnetic pulse that would have the force to take down the electrical grid, if done from the Atlantic, the electrical grid on the entire eastern seaboard. That would take down banking and finance. It would take down the delivery of food, and water, and energy, and transportation. On the entire eastern seaboard, one nuclear weapon. The projections are that the EMP, the results of that would be tens of millions of Americans would die. We all know better the consequences on that horrible day on September 11, 2001, when some 3,000 innocent souls were murdered. The potential threat of a single Iranian nuclear weapon detonated in the atmosphere above the United States is orders of magnitude greater. And if history demonstrates any principle it is that if somebody tells you they want to kill you, believe them.
“Now, when we return in September we're going to have a vote on this. Unfortunately to defeat this deal in the Senate will take two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House. The Senate inexplicably has given up its authority to ratify this as a treaty. And so the procedural mechanism is a resolution of disapproval, which the President has already stated he will veto, meaning we'll need two-thirds of the Senate and two-thirds of the House. So the President's focus right now is on getting 34 Senate Democrats to support this deal. I have been doing everything humanly possible to energize and to mobilize millions of Americans to light up the phones and call their elected representatives. You know, there was a time in the Democratic Party when there was a long tradition of Scoop Jackson democrats, of JFK democrats, of Joe Lieberman democrats, of democrats who valued national security, who were willing to stand up and defend this nation. Unfortunately, that has gotten more and more rare. There have been a handful of democrats who have stood up courageously including New York Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer and I have been effusively praising Chuck Schumer, something I don't do often, but at this instance, he's doing the right thing. It is my hope and prayer that in the coming weeks we see more and more democrats who make the decision to put the national security of the United States of America, to put standing with our friend and ally in the Nation of Israel, and to put the safety and security of millions of Americans above partisan loyalty to the Obama White House.
“A second major battle that is likely to play out in the coming weeks in the Senate is going to be the battle over funding Planned Parenthood. Many of us have seen the horrific videos that have come out, a series of videos that have senior officials of Planned Parenthood caught on film sipping chardonnay and laughing, while they barter and sell the body parts of unborn children. Those videos demonstrate what by all appearances is a pattern of criminal conduct. It is a federal criminal offense, a felony with ten years jail time, to sell the body parts of unborn children, and on video after video, these senior officials are showing just that. Indeed, one senior official laughs and says she hopes she can sell enough body parts to buy herself a Lamborghini. I encourage every American to watch these videos, even if, and in fact I would say especially if, you consider yourself pro-choice. I would encourage you simply to watch these videos and to ask the question, 'Are these my values?' Because the videos are horrifying.
“We're going to have a battle in the United States Congress about whether the federal government should continue to provide roughly $500 million a year to fund Planned Parenthood. Now in my view, the answer to that question is not complicated, that under no circumstances should the federal government be providing $500 million of your and my taxpayer money to fund what appears to be an ongoing criminal enterprise. We're going to have a battle.
“Now interestingly enough, you will see in the news a number of folks in the media characterizing this as ‘republicans threatening to shutdown the government over Planned Parenthood.’ I want to point out to each of you that any time the media says that they are not accurately reporting what is going on. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power of appropriation. Congress has the power of the purse. That's the way our Constitution is written. It is Congress' prerogative to determine what to fund and what not to fund. And the reason anyone is talking about a government shutdown is President Obama and a number of Senate Democrats are threatening that if Congress chooses not to fund Planned Parenthood, even during the pendency of multiple criminal investigations, that they will block and the President will veto funding for the rest of government in order to try to force through funding for Planned Parenthood. But it shouldn't be lost on anyone who it is that is threatening a government shutdown. It is democrats who are saying they will filibuster funding, and by the way filibuster funding for everything else. Their position is 'if you don't give the money to Planned Parenthood, we will block funding rest of the government.' I think that's a profoundly irresponsible position, but I think that is also a position that is worthy of public debate. It's worthy of public debate asking elected officials if they stand with funding this organization.
“A third question going forward that is going to be debated at considerable length is the question of regulatory reform. My number one priority in the Senate since day one has been economic growth, and the reason is simple. Economic growth is the top priority of the men and women in this room, and it's the top priority of 27 million Texans across this country. Economic growth is foundational to every other challenge we have, whether it is turning around unemployment or raising the stagnant median wages, whether it is finally tackling and turning around our debt and deficit so that we are no longer bankrupting our kids and grandkids, whether it is rebuilding our military to address the reality that the world has gotten to be a much more dangerous place, or whether it is reforming Social Security and Medicare to strengthen and preserve those vital bulwarks of our society. With growth, we can do all of that. Without growth, we can't do anything.
“If you look at the federal budget, there are a lot of people here who are numbers people who are used to looking at PNL statement. If you look at the federal budget, there is only one first order variable that impacts the federal budget - that is economic growth. Since World War II, the economy has grown on average 3.3 percent a year. There are only two 4-year periods where growth averaged less than one percent a year, 1978-1982 coming out of the Carter Administration and 2008-2012, where growth averaged 0.9 percent a year. If we're going to turn this country around, we've got to get back to historic levels of growth 3-4-5-percent growth. Suddenly, the federal budget transforms, and it's worth noting why there's a double whammy with growth. When you have booming growth, millions of people go off unemployment, go off disability, go off food stamps, so expenditures go down. But at the same time, those same millions of people that get jobs - they begin paying in taxes. Revenues go up as they are providing for their own families. It's a double whammy. And where does growth come from? Growth comes from the private sector. It comes from the men and women in this room. It doesn't come from government. It comes from entrepreneurs risking capital to meet a need, but government is very, very effective at screwing it up.
“I'm proud to be a Houstonian. I think Houston is the most entrepreneurial big city in this entire country. This is a room of people who know how to create jobs. If you look historically, every time we pursue out-of-control spending and taxes and regulations, the results have been stagnation and misery and malaise. And every time we pursue tax reform and regulatory reform, the result has been incredible economic growth. That was true in the 1920s under Calvin Coolidge. It was true in the 1960s under JFK. And it was true in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. Tax reform: we spend roughly $500 billion a year on tax compliance, on lawyers and accountants, all dead-weight loss. That's roughly the budget of our entire military wasted complying with the burdensome federal tax code. We need fundamental tax reform, and ideally we need to pass a simple flat tax, where every American can fill out his or her taxes on postcard.
“And when it comes to regulatory reform, every one of you deals with the growing burdens from the alphabet soup of regulatory agencies in Washington. I'm reminded of a few years ago when I was out in West Texas. I asked folks there - I said, 'What's the difference between federal regulators and locusts?' I said, 'Well, the thing is you can't use pesticide on the regulators.' And this old West Texas farmer leaned back and he said, 'Wanna bet?'
“If we want to unchain growth, we pull back the oppressive regulations from the EPA, the CFPB, the Department of Labor, all of Washington that is crushing jobs, and we unchain small businesses that generate two-thirds of all new jobs. And let me point out by the way when it comes to regulatory reform, if you look to this Administration and its abuse of executive power, what it has done that is fundamentally problematic is intruding into the Article I authority of Congress, the lawmaking authority of Congress. Under the Constitution, the President doesn't have the authority to make law, to change law, or ignore law. That being said, under Article II of the Constitution, all executive power is vested in the President. If you look at the regulatory state, the burdens that are coming from the career bureaucrats, those represent over the years the efforts of Congress to intrude on the executive power. We have never seen a President of the United States willing to use the full Article II authority of the President to go after the regulatory state, to dramatically reduce the burdens, the job-killing burdens coming from the regulatory state, and to unchain the free-market entrepreneurial abilities of the men and women in this room and of small businesses all across this country.
“In my view, what should Republican leadership and Congress be focused on in the next 18 months? It should be tax reform and regulatory reform, reducing the burdens on small businesses and job creators.
“And I'll close with this observation. There's no better place to start than energy. I've introduced legislation in the Senate called the American Energy Renaissance Act. It is the most comprehensive, the most aggressive, the broadest energy legislation submitted in Congress that would reduce dramatically the federal barriers of not allowing the private sector to generate jobs. It would prohibit the federal government from regulating fracking, leaving any and all regulation of fracking to the states, who are perfectly capable of handling that issue. It would build the Keystone Pipeline, and dramatically reduce the barrier to building new pipelines. It would dramatically reduce the regulatory barriers to building new refineries, to updating existing refineries. It would end the war on coal. It would end the federal government’s ongoing policy of subsidizing one energy sector at the expense of another, but rather go to an all-of-the-above approach where you don't have the federal government picking winners and losers. It would lift the export ban on crude oil, which is dramatically harming America. It is even more so harming Texas, and if you contrast it with Iran, we are right now, if the President's veto goes through, lifting sanctions on Iranian oil while imposing sanctions on American oil because the export crude ban is effectively sanctions on oil developed here. And it would dramatically facilitate the export of liquid natural gas as well.
“If we get the federal government out of the way, the American Energy Renaissance that we're experiencing has the potential to generate millions of high-paying jobs and not just jobs in the energy sector, but we can bring back manufacturing. We can bring back heavy manufacturing, bring back industries like the steel industry and compete with foreign nations like China, not based on low-cost labor - Lord knows, we don't want to compete on low-cost labor - but to compete based on abundant energy resources here at home.
“That's the kind of leadership I believe we need in Washington. That’s the kind of leadership that is my hope that we will see in both houses of Congress, focusing on common-sense policy to bring back jobs and growth and opportunity.
“Last thing I'll say to you is this. Think forward to January 20, 2017. On that day, a little old man walks up to the marine guarding the gates of the White House. The little old man says, 'Excuse me, sir. Is President Obama here?' The marine says, 'I'm sorry, sir. President Obama is no longer President of the United States.' The next day, January 21, 2017, same little old man walks up to the same marine, says, 'Excuse me, sir. Is Barack Obama here?' The marine sighs. He says, 'Sir, I told you. Barack Obama is no longer President of the United States.' The third day, January 22, same little old man, same marine, same question. This time the marine sighs loudly. He says, 'Sir, I've told you three days in a row. Barack Obama is no longer President of the United States.' The little old man with twinkle in his eye, he says, 'I know that. I just love hearing you say it.' And the marine salutes, and he says, 'See you tomorrow, sir!'
“Thank you very much and God Bless!”