McCain denies trying to freeze out Cruz

McCain denies trying to freeze out Cruz

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCrenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat Analysis: Biden victory, Democratic sweep would bring biggest boost to economy The Memo: Trump's strengths complicate election picture MORE (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday said he wasn't trying to prevent Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCrenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat SCOTUS confirmation in the last month of a close election? Ugly The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' MORE (R-Texas) from asking questions about the Iran nuclear deal at a hearing, although for a moment it appeared that way. 

Towards the end of the nearly three-hour hearing — which featured the secretaries of Defense, State, Energy and Treasury and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — McCain announced the witnesses would have to leave in 20 minutes. 

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He then listed remaining panel members who would be able to ask questions, including another 2016 presidential contender and his good friend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Cruz, with whom McCain has frequently sparred, was not the list.  

"No one else, I'm sorry," McCain said, as eyes in the hearing room turned toward Cruz. 

Graham looked over to Cruz, who was sitting next to him, and shot him a sympathetic look.  

Cruz did not react and chatted with Graham as the other senators continued to ask questions. But as the end of the hearing neared, McCain called on Cruz to question the witnesses. 

McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was not trying to ice out Cruz.

"I wasn't trying to shut him out, at first he was just not there. So then he came in, just as [Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)] came in," McCain told reporters afterwards. 

Asked whether a side deal was made to allow Cruz to asked questions, McCain said, "No, no, no. What happened was that he was not there as I had the list of questioners."

"Senators bounce in and out and I was trying to set the number of people who had questions," he added. 

McCain and Cruz have often clashed publicly, although both have denied any personal animosity. 

Earlier this year, Cruz said he had lobbied the chairman about holding a hearing on allowing troops to carry personal firearms on military installation. 

McCain mocked that suggestion, saying he had not heard from the Texas senator. 

“Maybe it was through some medium that I’m not familiar with. Maybe bouncing it off the ozone layer, for all I know,” he joked. "Maybe it was through hand telegraph, maybe sign language. Who knows?”  

Cruz later acknowledged he misspoke, but added, “Oh, I like John McCain. ... He can always be counted on for a good quote.”

McCain has also called Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another 2016 presidential candidate, "wacko birds," for which he apologized later.

The Arizona senator has also denied any ill will, saying he and Cruz were "good friends," and calling him a "valued member" of the committee.  

Though Cruz was able to ask questions on Wednesday, it would not be the first time Cruz has missed out on committee activities.

Cruz reportedly has the second-to-worst attendance record on the panel in his first two years on the committee, attending only 17 of 50 public Armed Services Committee hearings, according to Politico

Cruz was also not selected to participate in talks with House Armed Services Committee lawmakers to combine their respective versions of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act into a joint bill — that move was blamed on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

"Typically, all members of the [Senate Armed Services Committee] are named as the Senate conferees, but that is not the case this year,” a congressional source told the Huffington Post. 

Cruz rankled members of the Senate Republican Conference late last week when he took to the Senate floor and accused McConnell of lying to him.

 

-- This article was updated to reflect that four other junior Republicans were not chosen to participate in talks with House lawmakers.