SAN ANTONIO — Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE (R) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) face off in a debate on Tuesday night as a hotly contested Texas race enters its final stretch.
The debate is likely to be the last face-to-face showdown between the two, with only three weeks left in a Senate election that has captivated the nation.
O’Rourke raised a jaw-dropping $38.1 million between July and September, a record haul, but the congressman is lagging behind Cruz in the polls in a deep-red state that has not elected a Democrat statewide since 1994.
Follow along for live updates of the hourlong debate set to begin at 9 p.m. Eastern.
Closing arguments: ‘Inspiration’ vs ‘Choices’
In his closing remarks, O’Rourke said the country is in desperate need of “inspiration” and hope during a time of bitter partisan divisions.
“Whether we remain the inspiration of the world is an open question right now,” he said. He said he’s been inspired by the people of Texas to “transcend the obstacles” and fight for “Dreamers” and universal health care. Cruz said “elections are about choices” and economic progress in Texas would be rolled back under O’Rourke. “This is a choice about keeping the boom going,” he said. “We have the lowest Hispanic unemployment, the lowest African-American unemployment. Why would we want to screw that up?” — Jessie Hellmann A quick transition from politics to parenting
Toward the end of the hourlong debate, the moderator asked the candidates to speak about something they’ve been doing that doesn’t relate to politics.
Cruz gave a long pause and then gave an emotional answer about not being around enough for his children. He noted how he wasn’t able to attend his daughter’s game because he had to be in Washington to vote on the tax bill.
“I will say the hardest thing about being in this job is being a dad,” Cruz said.
O’Rourke reiterated a lot of Cruz’s answer, saying that it also “resonates” with him since he has three young children.
He said that when they get to spend time, they turn up the amplifier and “rock out.”
— Lisa Hagen
Cruz slams O’Rourke for not supporting Hurricane Harvey emergency tax relief
Cruz re-upped his attacks on O’Rourke for voting against a bill that induced tax breaks for storm victims, saying the El Paso congressman wanted to focus on undocumented immigrants rather than Hurricane Harvey victims.
Cruz said O’Rourke was just one of four Texas Democrats to vote “no” on a bill he authored alongside Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate headed for late night vote amid standoff over lands bill Koch-backed group launches ad campaign to support four vulnerable GOP senators Tim Scott to introduce GOP police reform bill next week MORE (R-Texas) that improved and expanded emergency tax relief for those affected by the tropical storm.
“He said it didn’t provide enough tax relief — that’s not what he said at the time he voted no,” Cruz said. “He said the reason he voted no is he said he wanted to focus on illegal immigrants rather than hurricane relief.”
But, in his rebuttal, O’Rourke stood by his vote.
The El Paso congressman said local leaders and officials still have not received the funding they need to start rebuilding the devastated area, arguing that Texans need a senator who is going to be around to make sure the money gets to local communities.
“They need a full-time senator, who will not be running for president,” O’Rourke said.
— Tess Bonn
Cruz bemoans “left wing mob”
Asked about civility in politics, Cruz said the “anger” on the “far left” is frightening.
“There is a loss of civility, there is an anger, there is a rage on the far left that is frightening,” Cruz said.
“The images of the left wing mob beating on the doors of the Supreme Court — that’s not good for the country,” he said.
“We can disagree while treating each other with respect, while treating each other with civility.”
But Cruz drew gasps from the crowd when a moderator tried to interject with a question, and was told “don’t interrupt me.”
— Jessie Hellmann
Debate moderator calls out Cruz over deficit, tax cuts
Cruz touted his support for the GOP’s tax law, while also talking about the need for paying down the deficit and debt.
He called the growing deficit and debt “immoral,” but said it wasn’t due to the tax cuts passed late last year.
One of the moderators cut in to note past comments from Cruz when he was on the presidential campaign trail in 2016: “Respectfully, Sen. Cruz, in Iowa you talked about how bad the deficit is.”
When asked if the tax law balloons the deficit and debt, Cruz responded, “No, it wouldn’t. That projection is wrong.”
Cruz went on to say that the reason for those things is because Congress keeps spending, adding that the government can manage “out of control spending” by imposing things like congressional term limits.
— Lisa Hagen
Cruz says he opposes trade tariffs
Cruz said he has repeatedly made the case against tariffs to President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE.
“I’m against tariffs, and I’m against the trade war,” Cruz said. “Erecting barriers and shutting down trade — that’s a bad thing.” Cruz said the issue of tariffs is one of the few issues he shares common ground with O’Rourke. “The difference is I’m able to work with President Trump and make the case to President Trump,” he said, arguing that House Democrats are engaged in “a partisan circus.” O’Rourke said tariffs are hurting Texas more than any other state, and Trump has alienated all of its potential trade partners. “We need a senator who will work with the president when he can, and stand up to him where he must. On this issue, we must stand up to him,” he said. — Jessie Hellmann Cruz attacks O’Rourke for wanting “socialized medicine” 9:35 p.m. Cruz accused the Democratic congressman of wanting “socialized medicine” and wanting Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE’s (I-Vt.) proposal for “Medicare for all.”
“O’Rourke supports Bernie Sanders’s socialized medicine,” Cruz said, adding that it would “triple your taxes.”
The GOP senator said relying on a system like that would lead to long wait times and the costs would be “immense.”
O’Rourke said that he thinks there are different ways of getting to affordable, universal health care, including Medicare for all, expanding Medicaid and “the ability for people to pay into Medicare.”
“All you hear from Sen. Cruz is what we should be afraid of,” O’Rourke said, pointing to Cruz previously shutting down the government, “perhaps because too many people had health care.”
“I want people to have more health care, make sure we lead on an issue we understand better than anyone else.”
— Lisa Hagen
Cruz attacks O’Rourke on oil tax
Cruz says O’Rourke has cast votes on energy and oil legislation that is “really harmful” to the people of Texas.
“Far too many Democrats approach this issue not as a matter of science,” he said, but instead “they approach it as a matter of government power.”
“They want the power to control the economy. That has let, for example, Congressman O’Rourke to cast some votes that I think are really harmful to the people of Texas.”
Cruz claims O’Rourke voted in favor of a $10 a barrel tax on every barrel of oil produced in the state, which he says would have a “devastating” impact on the local economy, which O’Rourke later denied.
— Tess Bonn
Immigration becomes point of contention
O’Rourke said building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico will do nothing to solve the nation’s immigration issues.
“No wall is going to solve legitimate security issues, but smart policy will,” he said, noting that he introduced a bill with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would invest more money in ports of entry into the U.S.
Cruz said he’s “led the fight to secure the border and building the wall.”
“Let me say there’s no race in this country where there is a starker divide on immigration,” he said.
— Jessie Hellmann
O’Rourke brings back “Lyin’ Ted”
In a throwback to the 2016 presidential election, O’Rourke brought back President Trump’s past nickname for Cruz: “Lyin’ Ted.” The congressman accused Cruz of continuing to lie throughout the debate.
“This is what you can expect over the course of debate,” O’Rourke said. “Sen. Cruz isn’t going to be honest, he’s dishonest.” “That’s why [Trump’s] nickname stuck, because it’s true.” Cruz, who laughed when O’Rourke delivered that line, punched back at the Democrat going on offense in this debate. “Well it’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz said. — Lisa Hagen Candidates clash on abortion 9:15 p.m.
Cruz said “We will see” when asked about whether the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion, following the confirmation of Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP senators urge Trump to back off Murkowski threat Judd Gregg: A government in free fall The 7 most anticipated Supreme Court decisions MORE.
“We’ll have to see when cases are decided,” Cruz said. “Judge Kavanaugh, just like his predecessor … declined to answer those questions and that’s been the standard for many many years.” O’Rourke said he would only vote for a Supreme Court justice that “believes in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.” — Jessie Hellmann O’Rourke comes out swinging on election security 9:10 p.m. When asked about election security, O’Rourke said the U.S. needs to secure the ballot box and quickly took aim at Cruz over the issue. The Democratic congressman attacked Cruz, claiming he won’t stand up to the president on an issue like this.
“He voted against safeguarding the integrity of our ballot box,” O’Rourke said in response to the first question of the night. “Our junior senator won’t stand up to President Trump.”
O’Rourke said he believed there can be “thoughtful regulations” on social media companies, drawing a stark contrast with Cruz, who said there shouldn’t be online regulations.
Meanwhile, Cruz criticized big media companies like Facebook, accusing them of “political bias” against conservatives.
“I believe in First Amendment, we shouldn’t be regulating content online,” Cruz said. “That being said, I’m very concerned about the political bias of big tech skewing and silencing conservatives.”
— Lisa Hagen
Stage set for second face-off
In about 10 minutes, Cruz and O’Rourke will take the stage in their second debate, which will be focused on both domestic and foreign policy.
Tuesday night’s debate is being held in San Antonio and is hosted by KENS 5. This debate will be a more intimate setting than the first one in Dallas, with a smaller audience of 120 people.
But expect the same fireworks between the candidates in the high-stakes showdown.
— Lisa Hagen
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