WASHINGTON — Speaking to a ballroom filled with Christian conservatives Thursday, 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz reflected on seven of the biggest victories for faith and families achieved since Donald Trump took over the White House in January 2017.
During a luncheon kicking off the annual Road to Majority Conference hosted by the influential social conservative advocacy group Faith & Freedom Coalition, the Texas senator celebrated the conservative political accomplishments of the last year and a half.
Cruz, who was the last Republican standing in Trump's way before Trump clinched the Republican nomination in 2016, has played a large role in the slim Republican-majority Senate that, he says, has led to victories for conservatives in addition to what has been accomplished by the Trump administration.
The following pages contain the seven "victories" outlined by Cruz during his 25-minute speech at the 2018 Road to Majority Conference.
1. The appointment of "principled, constitutionalist judges"
There was no bigger voting issue for many Christian conservatives in 2016 than the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court and the appointment of constitutionalist judges.
Conservatives were delighted when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the bench. The former Tenth Circuit Court judge was confirmed on April 7, 2017.
In addition to the Gorsuch nomination, Trump has been successful in rapidly nominating federal judges at other levels of the judiciary.
In praising the Gorsuch selection, Cruz celebrated the Supreme Court's ruling this week in favor of Colorado baker Jack Phillips, who was fighting a six-year long legal battle after he was punished by the state government for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
"If we lived in the sort of society that those who called themselves liberal prescribe, a tolerant society, that would have been the end of the story," he said of Phillips' case. "He would have lived according to his faith and we would have respected that faith and the diversity amongst us. But there are those with a legal agenda that wanted to drive that baker out of business, to punish him and any other person of faith for daring to live according to their faith."
Cruz led several members of Congress in issuing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of Phillips.
2. Human life
Cruz also celebrated the numerous pro-life victories that have been achieved by the Trump administration.
"We have seen in the last year-and-a-half significant victories for preserving innocent life," he said.
One of the first moves Trump made on the pro-life front was reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits foreign aid from going to organizations and clinics around the world that perform abortions.
Cruz also pointed out how the U.S. pulled out of funding the United Nations Population Fund that, he says, was "complicit in China's horrific practices of forced sterilizations and forced abortions."
"We saw [the Department of Health and Human Services] issue new rules, returning to the old rules prohibiting taxpayer funding from going to Planned Parenthood and clinics that provide abortions.
"Not only that, but we saw the administration rescind the abhorrent so-called contraceptive mandate in Obamacare — a mandate that was interpreted by the Obama administration to force or to try to force believers to fund abortion-inducing drugs. The consequences of that decision is in the litigation against the Little Sisters of the Poor."
3. Tax cut
Last December, the Republican-led Congress passed the most significant tax overhaul in three decades. The tax bill, conservatives say, will lead to more money being in the pockets of families.
"Cutting taxes on small businesses, cutting taxes on farmers, cutting taxes on ranchers, cutting taxes on families, doubling the standard deduction, What does that mean?" Cruz asked. "For a couple, standard deduction goes from $12,000 to $24,000. That means next year, 90 percent of Americans will be able to fill out your taxes on a postcard."
He pointed out that under the new tax bill, marginal tax rates are reduced in every bracket.
"We saw over 4 million Americans get pay raises, get bonuses because of the tax cut of $500, $1,000, more than $1,000. I was flying a few months ago on Southwest Airlines and a flight attendant walked up to me, hugged me and said 'Thanks for the pay raise.'"
Cruz argued that one of the most integral parts of the tax cut was the doubling of the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child per year.
"If you have three kids, that is an additional $3,000 in your pocket," he said. "That's the money for your daughter to get braces. That is the money for you to take your kids on maybe the first family vacation you've been on in several years to go to Disney World, or to take your kids to a summer camp or maybe to invest in a college fund or help tuition or help pay healthcare. This is real money for people who are struggling and this is a group that cares about families."
4. Repealing of the Obamacare individual mandate
As part of the tax bill, conservatives were able to accomplish something that some thought was only a pipe dream by repealing the Obamacare individual mandate that left many liable to pay fines for not having healthcare.
"That is a big deal and something I led the fight to do in the Senate. I will tell you: back in October, there were maybe a half-dozen senators supporting us," Cruz said. "Most of the conference said 'Look, we made a run at Obamacare twice and we came up short. Let's not muck up tax reform with Obamacare.'"
He explained that he had to make the argument that repealing the mandate that individuals have health insurance would lead to millions of Americans who can't afford to pay health insurance not having to worry about paying a fine from the Internal Revenue Service every year.
"Here is how the Obamacare individual mandate works. Every year, the IRS fines 6.5 million Americans because they can't afford health insurance. Of those, roughly 80 percent earn $50,000 per year or less. Roughly 40 percent, earn $25,000 a year or less. About 1 million are Texans. I want you to imagine for a second that you are a single mom. You are working two jobs and you are struggling to make ends meet and you are trying to provide for your kids. You are not even making $25,000 a year and to add insult to injury, the IRS comes along and fines you because you can't afford to pay the premiums that have skyrocketed under Obamacare."
Cruz said that although there were only about six senators who wanted to put language to repeal the individual mandate in the tax bill in October, all 52 Republican senators ended up voting for the language in the end.
"That is a big conservative victory that no one in Washington thought we would win," he said. "Look, Obamacare is clearly the biggest unfinished promise that Republicans have. We need to finish the job. We need to keep rolling up our sleeves and finish the job and repeal every single word of Obamacare."
5. School choice tax bill amendment
An amendment that Cruz introduced to allow parents and families to extend 529 college funds to pay for K-12 education at public and private schools became the only amendment that was adopted on the Senate floor pertaining to the tax bill, according to the senator.
Under the expansion, parents can withdraw up to $10,000 per year from their 529 plans to pay for their children's primary or secondary education.
"With that, we saw the most far-reaching, federal school choice legislation that has ever passed come into law providing benefits to up to 50 million school kids across the country, enabling parents and grandparents to save for your kids and to save for your grandkids and choose the best education options for them."
6. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
In May, Cruz attended the historic opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, a move that he and many other social conservative Christians have long pushed for.
He praised Trump for the fact that he was able to do something that presidents in both political parties have promised and failed to do.
"We had a year-and-a-half battle in the Trump administration. I interjetically argued for moving the embassy and President Trump made the right decision and now our embassy is in Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel."
7. Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal
Cruz is one of the most avid critics of the Obama administration's deal finalized in January 2016 to lift nuclear sanctions against Iran in exchange for concessions in its nuclear program for the next several years.
In fact, he and Trump held a joint rally to bash the deal in September 2015.
When Trump announced that he was pulling out of the Iran deal last month, Cruz was among the many who applauded.
"The president made the right decision to withdraw from the disastrous Obama-Iran nuclear deal. Obama had sent tens of billions of dollars to the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, the Ayatollah Khomeini, who chants 'Death to America and death to Israel.' When he says that, I believe him," Cruz said during the conference.
He asserted that the deal would have led to Iran having nuclear weapons.
"Once again, there was a battle in the Trump administration over whether we should stay in the deal or pull out. I interjectically urged the president that the right thing to do for the national security of this country is pull out of the deal and use every force we have — economic, diplomatic and if need be, military, to ensure the ayatollah never ever gets nuclear weapons."
"We see in the federal courts all across the country, we see it in Justice Neil Gorsuch and let me be one to thank God for the victory we had this week in the Colorado [baker's case]."