Sen. Ted Cruz on Thursday gave an impassioned speech encouraging his colleagues to vote against Loretta Lynch for attorney general, calling her "unsuitable" for confirmation. A few hours later, when the Senate took a final vote to confirm her, Cruz was the lone senator who didn't show up.
Where was he? Possibly en route to Texas to raise cash, though his office won't say.
Cruz staffers took to Twitter Thursday afternoon as reporters began asking questions about his whereabouts and attempted to change the subject. Cruz was there for the earlier Lynch vote, a move to invoke cloture, which would then allow the Senate to take a final vote to either confirm or deny Lynch her new job at the Justice Department.
Cruz spokeswoman Amanda Carpenter, in a tweet, called the cloture vote "the only one that mattered," arguing that if the Senate could get 60 votes for cloture, they could get enough votes to secure Lynch's confirmation on final passage.
If the Senate could get 60 votes for cloture, they could get 51 for final confirmation. Cloture is the only vote that mattered.— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) April 23, 2015
There's one problem with that argument. Sixty-six senators voted for cloture—including 10 Republicans who ultimately voted against Lynch's final confirmation. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, who has been an outspoken opponent of Lynch's nomination for months even as fellow leaders Mitch McConnell and John Thune wouldn't say how they'd vote, was among the members who voted for cloture and then opposed final passage. Thune did the same.
.@StevenTDennis He did vote on Lynch. He voted no on cloture, which, as you know, is the real measure of support or opposition— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) April 23, 2015
On a normal vote, 60 votes would be needed. But this is an executive branch nomination, and since Harry Reid invoked the nuclear option two years ago and Republicans have decided not to change the rules back (at least as of yet), Lynch needed only 51 yeas on both votes. Any less—on either vote—would have sent the administration back to the drawing board.
Lynch has had 51 public commitments since Republican Sen. Mark Kirk announced in February that he would support her. In other words, by that logic, Cruz's nay vote was essentially meaningless both times.
Acting like cloture doesn't matter and the "real" vote is final passage is how the mushy middle GOPs have avoided accountability for years— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) April 23, 2015
As reporters have continued to question his team about Cruz's absence—the senator himself disappeared from the Capitol this afternoon after the cloture vote and after dodging reporters' questions about the drone strike that killed a U.S. hostage—his staffers have offered increasingly novel responses.
WH is probably upset that reporters are again covering Cruz and not focusing on confirmation of Lynch— Brian Phillips (@RealBPhil) April 23, 2015
Two communications staffers in Cruz's Senate office did not respond to a National Journal request for comment about the whereabouts of their boss during the final Lynch vote. But intrepid reporter Jamie Dupree of Cox Radio found an invitation on Cruz's presidential campaign site for a fundraiser in Dallas, Texas, tonight at 6 p.m.
Cruz's team has not responded to questions about the fundraiser.
Cruz was also the lone senator to skip Wednesday's vote on the human-trafficking bill, which passed 99-0.