Republican Party leaders have been quick to condemn Donald Trump’s proposal to bar all Muslims from entering the United States, but the idea is not anathema to a group of Senate conservatives that includes his presidential rival, Ted Cruz.
On Thursday afternoon, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont offered an amendment to a nuclear terrorism bill in the Judiciary Committee stating that it was “the sense of the Senate that the United States must not bar individuals from entering into the United States based on their religion, as such action would be contrary to the fundamental principles on which this nation was founded.”
Simple enough, it would seem. Yet Cruz and three other Republicans on the committee—Senators Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina—all voted against it. The seven other Republicans on the panel, including long-shot presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham, supported the amendment. Cruz was not present for the debate and voted by proxy, which is allowed only in committee votes in the Senate.
Cruz’s Senate spokesman, Phil Novak, said the resolution was “nothing more than a political stunt” that was unrelated to the underlying legislation. “A nuclear terrorism bill is not the place for political games," Novak wrote in an email, “which is why after voting against Senator Leahy’s amendment, Senator Cruz voted for the nuclear terrorism bill to protect Americans against this grave threat.” Novak didn’t respond when pressed on whether Cruz believed that a religious test for entering the U.S. was appropriate.