U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has embarked on his first statewide tour since withdrawing as a presidential primary candidate, addressed members of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce at a Wednesday breakfast gathering at the Westin Riverwalk Hotel. Audience members hoping for some fireworks about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump were left hoping for more.

“It’s a strange political season right now,” Cruz said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen nationally in the political season, but I do know as a country, we need a return to common sense. We need a return to the common-sense values that have built Texas, that have built San Antonio.”

The junior senator from Texas said nothing else about Trump or his own speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland where he was booed off the stage after failing to endorse his party’s presidential nominee. Cruz did say he and his family enjoyed the presidential campaign he ran this spring.

“We’ve been incredibly humbled and grateful to have been part of the journey,” he said. “It’s been truly inspirational to see Texans all across this state, people across the country, standing up and giving sacrificially and fighting for this country.”

Cruz came to talk about  jobs, freedom, and security. He had much to say about the Obama administration and how he thinks the rest of the nation should adopt Texas’ “common sense” approach to limited government.

Cruz said he is convinced Texas government’s belief in business-friendly policies and a renewed commitment to freedom could be expanded nationwide to help “turn this country around.”

The senator said economic growth does not trickle down from the actions of lawmakers in Washington, D.C., but from businesses. He added that reform of regulations and taxes affecting commerce is critical to continued, free-flowing economic development.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz comments on needing to return to common sense. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz comments on needing to return to common sense. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

“We need a federal government that is responsive to needs of small businesses by keeping the regulatory burdens off of the backs of small businesses,” said Cruz.

The senator said in conducting roundtable discussions with business owners around Texas, the Affordable Care Act – commonly referred to as Obamacare – has been the biggest deterrent to business growth in recent years.

According to Cruz, many business owners he has met either don’t expand their workforce, raise wages, or they move out-of-state or even the country because of the costs associated with Obamacare.

“The common sense we understand in Texas is that we want to create an environment where burdens of government are as little as possible so entrepreneurs are creating and providing opportunity,” Cruz said.

Cruz said another place where he fears regulation is increasing is the internet, which he called “an oasis of freedom.”

“The internet has been an incredible incubator for small business,” he said, adding that being online has provided numerous new ways for a business to start and grow.

But Cruz said he is worried about a rising level of burdensome rules impacting the internet. A federal court this summer ruled that high-speed internet service can be defined as a utility, enabling stronger policing of broadband providers and more protection for web users.

Cruz criticized any attempt to apply to the internet a level of stifling rules that affect the telephone industry. He said the internet should stay free of regulations and taxes so that entrepreneurs and freedom of speech could flourish online.

“(The federal government wants) to make it the same thing where you have to go to federal government regulators to get permission for new innovation, for permission to change terms of service and terms of prices,” he said. “I think that’s absurd.”

He also dinged a plan for an international coalition of stakeholders to replace the nonprofit group Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in overseeing the assignment and management of domain names and basic online rules.

Advocates of this move see it as better aligning countries on the fundamentals of internet openness. But opponents such as Cruz are worried that countries such as Russia and China – both of whom have been suspect of state-sponsored cyber warfare – would have greater influence on internet rules and gloabl operations.

Cruz pledged to prevent the “giveaway of the internet” and to help keep it “open and free.” Additionally, Cruz chimed with tighter regulation of the energy industry.

Cruz said thanks to the Eagle Ford shale boom of recent years, Texas has been a leader in an “energy revolution.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with a guest at the 2016 Congressional Series breakfast. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks with a guest at the 2016 Congressional Series breakfast. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

In 2015, he co-sponsored the American Energy Renaissance Act, which proposes removing barriers to domestic energy exploration and expansion. It was last held up in Congressional committee hearings.

Cruz also applauded the passage of a law he co-sponsored, the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. The law prohibits federal regulation of the commercial space industry for another seven-plus years.

Transitioning into a call for more freedom nationwide, Cruz reemphasized a need for states to be better able to conduct their own affairs accordingly rather than be subjected to ineffective federal laws.

“We need a federal government that protects the Bill of Rights for all of us,” he added.

Cruz then noted a need for a stronger military and foreign policy. He called the Obama administration “willfully blind” to what he called blatant dangers posed by Islamic militancy here and abroad.

“This world keeps getting more dangerous and our military gets less and less ready to defend us,” he added. Cruz criticized the government’s efforts to reduce the military’s size and funding.

The senator said San Antonio, with its significant military presence, understands how a strong defense force can impact the country’s readiness and a community’s economy.

“We need a federal government that stands with the men and women of our military,” Cruz said.

He reiterated recent criticism leveled by party conservatives against the Obama administration for its decision to airlift $400 million to Iran shortly after it released four American prisoners.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the 2016 Congressional Series breakfast. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the 2016 Congressional Series breakfast. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

“And by the way, taking on Iran doesn’t mean sending an unmarked cargo plane with $400 million in foreign currency to pay ransom for American hostages,” Cruz said. “It would be difficult to come up with a more foolhardy policy.

“When you pay $400 million in ransom, to the surprise of no one, Iran has already captured two more hostages,” Cruz added. “The federal government will start paying big chunks of money for American citizens being kidnapped — nobody should be surprised when the bad guys start kidnapping more and more citizens.”

Before and after his speech, Cruz found himself warmly greeted by several chamber members. Chamber Chairwoman Renee Flores kicked off the breakfast by describing Cruz as “a passionate fighter for limited government, economic freedom, and the constitution.”

“(Cruz’s) calling to public service is inspired largely by the pursuit of freedom and opportunity in America,” Flores added.

In recent weeks, speculation has increased on the subject of possible opponents from both sides of the political aisle who might run against Cruz in 2018, but the senator walked by reporters without responding when asked about his political future.


Top Image: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaks about the state of the 2016 election.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Edmond Ortiz

Edmond Ortiz, a lifelong San Antonian, is a freelance reporter/editor who has worked with the San Antonio Express-News and Prime Time Newspapers.