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Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet slams Ted Cruz’s “crocodile tears” over the shutdown

A fiery speech shows many lawmakers are reaching their breaking point on the impasse.

Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

As the United States Senate debated two dead-in-the-water bills to end the government shutdown on Thursday, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) delivered an exasperated speech from the Senate floor. He attacked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for his “crocodile tears” over the shutdown and shouted that it’s “ludicrous” for President Donald Trump to refuse to fund the government over his insistence on a border wall.

A clip of the Colorado Democrat slamming Republicans and the White House for keeping the government closed quickly went viral. Cruz called for Democratic senators to “withdraw their objections” to the GOP and Trump, and Bennet wasn’t having it.

“I seldom, as you know, rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side. I’ve worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer, with my Republican colleagues,” Bennet said. “But these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying over first responders is hard to take.”

Bennet zeroed in on Cruz’s role in the 2013 government shutdown over Republicans’ insistence that any spending bill passed at that time delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Cruz essentially led a group of Republicans in keeping the government closed for 17 days, at one point taking the Senate floor for a 21-hour speech, including a reading of Green Eggs and Ham.

“In 2013, my state was flooded, it was underwater, people were killed, people’s houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever,” Bennet said, describing massive flooding that devastated Colorado in 2013. “And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down for politics that he surfed to a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.”

Cruz ran for the president in 2016, losing to Trump in the Republican primary.

Bennet continued his attack on Cruz, who he said “supports a president who wants to erect a medieval barrier, who wants to use eminent domain to build that wall, who wants to declare an unconstitutional emergency to build that wall.” That, Bennet said, is Cruz’s prerogative.

“I can assure you that in Colorado, if a president said he was going to use eminent domain to erect a barrier across the state of Colorado, across the mountains of Colorado, he was going to steal the property of our farmers and ranchers to build his medieval wall, there wouldn’t be an elected leader from our state that would support his idea,” Bennet said.

He saved perhaps his most impassioned critique for last, and was clearly emotional when he delivered it:

Which goes to my final point, how ludicrous it is that this government is shut down over a promise the president of the United States couldn’t keep. And that America is not interested in having him keep. This idea that he was going to build a medieval wall across the southern border of Texas, take it from the farmers and ranchers that were there and have the Mexicans pay for it is isn’t true. That’s why we’re here.

Where we are in the government shutdown: nobody has answers

The US government is in the midst of its longest government shutdown in history, with the current partial shutdown about to reach the 34-day mark at midnight on Thursday. And there are no answers in sight.

The Senate on Thursday voted on two bills to reopen the government — one that included the $5 billion Trump is demanding for his border wall, and one that did not. Neither appeared to have any chance of passing in the first place.

Some 800,000 federal government workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, and hundreds of thousands of government contractors have been impacted as well. The shutdown is starting to have a real impact on the US economy, not to mention likely millions of people’s lives. Yet lawmakers have not come to a solution.

Trump seems no closer to conceding on his border wall insistence, despite polling suggesting perhaps he should, and all sides are dug in. Bennet’s speech highlights the desperation of the moment — not only among lawmakers but, perhaps more importantly, among the people who are feeling the effects of the ordeal each day.