Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the first major 2016 presidential candidate to announce, may also be the most conservative member of the eventual GOP field. On a broad array of domestic, economic, and social issues, he is either further to the right of his rivals or has distinguished himself by backing more confrontational tactics. He hopes to convince conservative activists that he not only supports the right policies but also is willing to fight for them.
Yet Cruz doesn't entirely follow a hard right line. On foreign policy, he's deliberately tried to distinguish himself from his party's most hawkish voices. And on issues like criminal justice and surveillance, he has a bit of a libertarian streak.
Here's a guide to where Cruz stands on the issues.
Repeal Obamacare — at any cost
Pretty much all conservatives oppose Obamacare, and would like to see it repealed. Yet Cruz has distinguished himself with his hardline tactics to try to force Obamacare's repeal — tactics that famously led to a 16-day shutdown of the federal government in 2013. Last month, Cruz called once again for repealing "every blasted word of Obamacare." To replace it, he wants to "expand Health Savings Accounts, allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines, and make health care more personal, portable, and affordable."
Don't capitulate on the fight against amnesty
On immigration, Cruz strongly opposes granting legal status to unauthorized immigrants currently in the US, which he calls "amnesty." Instead, he's said, "We need to secure the borders, we need to stop illegal immigration, and we need to improve and streamline legal immigration." Cruz has also been a leading critic of President Obama's executive actions to defer deportations of unauthorized immigrants. "I have fought against executive amnesty at every stage using every tool that is available," he's said. Earlier this year, he criticized his party's congressional leaders for planning "to capitulate on the fight against amnesty."
Make school choice a civil rights issue
On education, Cruz supports "embracing school choice as the civil rights issue of the next generation." He's a strong supporter of vouchers, signing on to a bill that would let Title I funds "follow low-income students to any public or private school of their choice." Cruz has also been a harsh critic of the Common Core standards and has called for their "repeal" (though there is no federal law requiring it).
Science doesn't support climate "alarmists"
Cruz doesn't believe climate change is a problem. "Many of the alarmists on global warming, they've got a problem because the science doesn't back them up," he said recently (and inaccurately). He has proposed stripping the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases, expanding fossil fuel production, and preventing fracking "from being handcuffed by the federal government."
Flatter and simpler taxes
Cruz's recipe for tax reform is a common one on the right — make taxes flatter but definitely don't raise them. "Imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard," he said in his announcement speech. Earlier this year, he called for "fundamental tax reform making our tax code simpler, flatter, fairer." He's signed Grover Norquist's pledge opposing tax increases. And so far, he's shown no desire to side with the "reformocons" who want to increase the child tax credit, like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee.
Abolish the IRS
Where Cruz goes further than most other Republicans, however, is with his support of abolishing the IRS altogether — a position he's held since the scandal over the agency's treatment of conservative groups broke in mid-2013. "We need to padlock and shut down the building," Cruz has said. A spokesperson elaborated that "there would be a small department that would enforce the tax code, but the IRS as we know it would be gone."
Audit the Fed
Cruz's support of auditing the Federal Reserve also goes further than his party's establishment. Cruz suggests this would lead to increased transparency — but also that he's unhappy with the Fed's current monetary policy. "Americans are seeing near-zero interest rates on their savings accounts while median incomes are falling, and millions of people are facing higher gas prices, food prices, electricity prices, health insurance prices," Cruz has written. "The Federal Reserve needs to open its books — Americans deserve a sound and stable dollar."
Stop "bankrupting our country" with federal spending
Cruz supports cutting federal spending, and has backed a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. "We need to stop bankrupting our country," he said last year. "What we're doing to our kids and grandkids is morally wrong." He supports keeping the spending cuts in the sequester (with the exception of some "disproportionate cuts" to the military), and opposed a December 2013 bipartisan budget deal rolling back some of the sequester's cuts. "You're going to be hard pressed to come up with a cost-cutting program that I'm not going to support," Cruz said recently.
Reduce spending by changing Medicare and Social Security
"You cannot bring the budget into control without taking on entitlement reform," Cruz said recently. When interviewer Sean Hannity asked if he'd support means testing and raising the age of eligibility for those programs, Cruz said he would (for future generations, not current seniors).
End the Export-Import Bank
Recently, the GOP has been split by some reformist conservatives who want to oppose "crony capitalism" — the idea that the government and business working together hurts competition. Cruz supports the anti-cronyists' marquee initiative of abolishing the Export-Import Bank, and has called the bank a "corrupt crony-capitalist fiasco."
No net neutrality
Cruz opposes network neutrality, and has called it the "biggest regulatory threat to the internet," saying that it leads to "fewer choices, fewer opportunities, and higher prices for consumers." Last year, he drafted a bill that would eliminate the FCC's authority to write rules on net neutrality.
Free trade is great
On trade, Cruz said in January, "I am a full-throated advocate of free trade. Free trade benefits America, produces jobs, produces economic growth and it is good for our country." On the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Cruz's office told the Huffington Post that he generally supports trade deals but will wait for the final text of the TPP before officially backing it.
Reform mandatory sentencing
Cruz joins criminal justice reformers in his support of reducing mandatory minimum sentences. "Right now, today, far too many young men, in particular African-American young men, find their lives drawn in with the criminal justice system, find themselves subject to sentences of many decades for relatively minor nonviolent drug infractions," he said recently.
Let states determine pot laws
Cruz doesn't support marijuana legalization, but says states should be allowed to try it. "If the citizens of Colorado decide they want to go down that road [of legal marijuana], that's their prerogative," he said in February. "I personally don't agree with it, but that's their right."
Require ID for voter registration
Cruz wants to ensure that states can require proof of citizenship for voter registration. In mid-2013, he filed an amendment to the Senate's immigration bill that would guarantee states could do this.
Allow unlimited campaign donations
On money in politics, Cruz is one of the rare politicians to openly call for eliminating campaign contribution limits. Everyone "has a right to speak out in politics as effectively as possible," he said recently.
Limit congressional terms
Cruz has also called for term limits for members of Congress, which could only be established through a constitutional amendment. He's backed a proposal to limit senators to two six-year terms, and Congressmen to three two-year terms.
Abortion is a grave injustice
On abortion, Cruz supports pro-life causes. He has called the date of the Roe v. Wade decision a "dark anniversary," and argued that "any just society" should protect the right to life "from conception to natural death." Cruz supports banning late-term abortions, and opposes using taxpayer funds for abortion. He said last year that allowing "abortion facilities to continue operating under substandard conditions" is the "real war on women."
States should decide on same-sex marriage
Cruz opposes same-sex marriage, and says the issue should be left up to the states, not the federal government or the Supreme Court. "I support traditional marriage, and we should reject attempts by the Obama administration to force same-sex marriage on all 50 states," he's said. Cruz has also said that court rulings requiring same-sex marriage in various states are "tragic," "indefensible," and "judicial activism at its worst."
Defends gun rights for law-abiding people
Cruz strongly defends gun rights. He's argued that gun regulations should "target violent criminals," and not "the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens." The NRA has given him sterling ratings. In Texas, Cruz has joked, "We define gun control real simple — that’s hitting what you aim at."
Between McCain and Paul on foreign policy
The GOP is currently debating how interventionist its foreign policies should be — and Cruz is seeking out a middle ground. Cruz has said that on a spectrum between Rand Paul's non-interventionism and John McCain's hawkishness, he'd fall in between them, since he shares "the views of Reagan." Overall, he said he tends to support tough rhetoric toward America's enemies but restraint in the use of ground troops abroad.
Was against striking the Syrian regime
In the fall of 2013, Cruz opposed Obama's plan for military strikes against Syria in retaliation for the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. At the time, Cruz wrote that Assad's actions were "not a direct threat to national security," that the Syrian rebels were not necessarily better than Assad, and that "escalation" could lead the US to be drawn into the civil war.
Wants to ramp up the war against ISIS
However, Cruz has since taken a harder line against ISIS. "The mission should be defeating ISIS before they succeed in carrying out more horrific acts of terror, before they succeed in murdering Americans," Cruz said in February. He said that arming ISIS's opponents and stepping up air strikes should be pursued first, but that US ground troop should also be considered, if necessary to "accomplish the mission."
Obama is too lenient on Iran and too tough on Israel
Cruz views Iran's nuclear ambitions in apocalyptic terms, saying, "When you have religious zealots who glorify death and suicide, ordinary deterrence is not effective." He's said that "a real president" would say, "Under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran will either stop, or we will stop them." He's called on the next US president to "repudiate" any deal the Obama administration reaches with Iran, and said that in its pursuit of an agreement, the administration wasn't "standing with, unshakably, with our friend and ally, the nation of Israel."
Reform the NSA
Cruz has been critical of the NSA's collection of Americans' data. "Instead of a government that seizes your e-mails and your cellphones, imagine a federal government that protected the privacy rights of every American," he said in his announcement speech. Last year, he backed a bill that would reform the agency in various ways, including stopping bulk collection of metadata and appointing a public advocate to oppose the government in FISA courts.