Ted Cruz found himself under fire Wednesday for his past support of an amendment to strip out a path to citizenship from the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration bill which would have left a path to legal status in place. Cruz, who maintained in Tuesday night's GOP debate that he never supported such a path, struggled to explain his legislative jujitsu, as rival Marco Rubio's campaign gleefully pounced. "Of course I wanted the bill to pass, my amendment to pass," a visibly shaken Cruz said on Fox News Wednesday. "What my amendment did was take citizenship off the table. It doesn’t mean that I supported the other aspects of the bill, which was terrible." Cruz's campaign maintains the amendment was a poison pill designed to split Democratic and Republican supporters of the bill—and Cruz was one of the leading critics of the legislation—but the optics are not great, as Rubio turns the seeming flip-flop into a question of Cruz's character. And Cruz's new hardline position against legalization now poses an electability problem, leaving deportation or the continuation of the status quo for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally as his only remaining options to support.
Republicans rushed to show off their hawkish sides Tuesday night, but as the smoke cleared some worry if they've gone too far. Cruz and Ben Carson's embrace of "carpet bombing" in Syria—a tactic of indiscriminate bombing not used since Vietnam—was only the most visible instance of rhetoric veering from even the GOP mainstream.
The federal budget agreement is full of odds and ends—including more funding for NASA and the National Institutes of Health, a delay to a controversial component of Obamacare, and a ban on the IRS from issuing new rules on outside political groups. It would also end the ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, expand and continue funding for 9/11 first responders, and make permanent an array of tax breaks. Such riders quietly added to the "must-pass" legislation (to avoid a shutdown) would add roughly $500 billion to the deficit, but many Republicans are giving their leadership a pass on the messy process.
Rubio talks rap. Bernie Sanders hits a donation milestone. Hillary Clinton picks up a key endorser as Warren Buffett slams Trump.
Here are your must-reads:
Warren Buffett Takes Digs at Trump While Campaigning for Clinton in Omaha
TIME's Jay Newton-Small on the billionaires squaring off
Republicans Reveal Discord in Debate Over Dictators
A sharp move away from the adventurous foreign policy of George W. Bush, TIME's Mark Thompson writes
Budget Deal Raises Spending, and the Deficit, Through Tax Breaks
Democratic votes needed to push agreement through Congress before the end of the year [New York Times]
Chris Christie's Post-New Hampshire Plan: A Wing and a Prayer
New Hampshire-or-bust strategy leaves little thought for what might come next [Politico]
Will GOP Candidates’ Strikingly Hawkish Stances Alienate Swing Voters?
A rightward shift as a wary nation looks on [Washington Post]
"I have a lot of friends who are Muslims. And some of them, not all of them, many of them called me and said, 'You know Donald you're right, we have a problem.'" — Donald Trump defending his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. in an interview with late night host Jimmy Kimmel. "Those may have been crank calls," Kimmel replied
"He doesn't mention that in the speeches in Iowa. He obviously mentioned that at the time because that's what he wanted. And now of course, in this campaign, he is looking for a political advantage so he tries to obscure the lines on it." — Marco Rubio hitting Ted Cruz on his past support for legalization on Fox News
Bits and Bites
17 Guantánamo Prisoner Transfers Said to Be Pending [New York Times]
At Republican Debate, Straying Into Mideast, and Getting Lost [New York Times]