Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz outlined Tuesday three pieces of legislation he thinks will keep Americans safe from threats by the Islamic State exploiting an influx of Syrian refugees — and dodged every opportunity to attack Donald Trump over GOP front-runner's widely derided plan to ban Muslims from entry to the U.S.
When asked about Trump’s statement Monday calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” the Texas senator said that he disagreed with that proposal but that he won't be an “ongoing theater critic” for every comment made by another presidential candidate.
“A lot of our friends here have encouraged me to criticize and attack Donald Trump, I’m not interested in doing so,” Cruz said. “But I believe we need a plan that is focused on the direct threat, and the threat we’re facing is radical Islamic terrorism.”
When asked whether he thinks Trump’s call to exclude a people group based on their religion is constitutional, Cruz dodged the question, saying instead that he’s focused on his own policies and solutions.
“Certainly in the media there’s been no shortage of criticism of Donald Trump,” Cruz said. “I do not believe the world needs my voice added to that chorus of critics.”
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) speaks during a town hall meeting at Furman University Monday in Greenville, S.C. (AP/Rainier Ehrhardt)
When asked if he would support Trump if he wins the Republican primary, Cruz said that he’d support any Republican nominee — but he hopes to be the nominee himself.
“I recognize that a great many folks in the media would prefer that anyone running for president would engage as an ongoing theater critic, criticizing the proposals of others,” he said. “I do not agree with his proposal. I do not think it is the right solution. And the right solution I believe is the legislation that I’ve introduced.”
Earlier in the press conference, Cruz introduced a bill to impose a three-year moratorium on refugees from countries where the Islamic State or Al Qaeda controls a “substantial amount” of territory.
“The reason is simple: We have been told by the FBI they cannot vet these refugees, and our first obligation should be protecting our national security,” Cruz said at a news conference Tuesday morning on Capitol Hill.
A second new provision Cruz urged leaders in Congress to “pass immediately” is an opt-out option for state governors to decide not to allow refugees into their states, despite President Barack Obama’s executive direction that they do so. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott joined Cruz at the press conference and said that Cruz’s legislation will make it possible for him to protect his state’s citizens.
About 30 governors — Democrats and Republicans — have said they don’t want to resettle Syrian refugees in their states, Cruz said. “Those officials are doing their jobs. They’re honoring their commitments to the men and women who elected them. We need a president who will do the same.”
Cruz also touted his Expatriate Terrorist Act, which he introduced last month but was blocked by Democrats on Capitol Hill. The bill would change current law to say that Americans who join forces with terrorists overseas will forfeit their U.S. citizenship.
“We should not be allowing ISIS terrorists to come into America with a U.S. passport and wage jihad against innocent citizens,” he said. Cruz called his legislative proposals “reasonable, common-sense steps” to keep Americans safe.
“We know our top obligation is doing everything possible to prevent another terrorist attack, to prevent another San Bernardino attack,” he said. “Because as long as the federal government is not doing its job, we know there will be another and another and another.”
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