Texas’ two Republican U.S. senators largely sidestepped questions Tuesday regarding the firestorm unleashed hours earlier when Donald Trump Jr., one of the president’s sons, released emails showing he eagerly accepted overtures from the Russian government to help his father’s presidential campaign a year ago.
Sen. Ted Cruz brushed off the controversy with a line he has repeated often: The question of Russian influence in the 2016 election doesn’t register back home.
“When I go back to Texas, nobody asks about Russia,” Cruz told reporters. “You know, I held town halls all over the state of Texas. You know how many questions I got on Russia? Zero.”
He further deflected questions about President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia by blaming former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. These comments came as the news of Trump Jr.’s emails was breaking.
Sen. John Cornyn directed most of his public comments Tuesday toward efforts to pass a healthcare overhaul bill, but he did suggest that Trump Jr. will likely testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which Cornyn serves.
The younger Trump wrote on Twitter that he was posting his email conversations with a Russian lawyer in order to be “totally transparent,” once he was informed that The New York Times had copies of the correspondence. The correspondence makes clear that a senior Russian government official was offering the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The president issued a brief statement through his spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
The magnitude of the Russia news eclipsed healthcare, which Republican leaders had expected would be the headline issue of the week. Senate Republicans have struggled mightily to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, only to see their first stab at the issue fall apart in recent weeks.
GOP senators intend to release a new bill Thursday. That bill will come in two forms: one with a key amendment from Cruz and one without it. The bill will then head to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office for an economic impact analysis.
Cruz has pushed in recent weeks to allow insurers to sell plans that do not comply with Obamacare coverage requirements in a state as long as they also sell at least one plan in the state that is Obamacare-compliant.
Also Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he would keep the chamber in session into early August, which is typically the beginning of a traditional five-week recess period.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.