GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — Firebrand U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said Friday that most Texans still oppose abortion, despite the national stir caused by a Democratic filibuster “and a handful off protesters” in the state Senate this week that blocked a sweeping bill to further limit the procedure.
The tea party darling addressed the National Right to Life Conference in suburban Dallas. He was such a hit that when Cruz strode through a side door moments before he was scheduled to speak, the person on stage had to stop as the crowd cheered and climbed to their feet.
Once at the microphone, Cruz called what happened in the state Legislature “a battle.”
“If you listen to the media those rowdy protesters were adopting the popular view,” he said. “Yet the simple reality is, 62 percent of Texans oppose late-term abortions.” He didn’t cite a source.
On Tuesday, the last day of a special legislative session, state lawmakers were poised to approve a wide-reaching bill imposing a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and other restrictions when Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis staged a filibuster for more than 12 hours.
She was trying to last until midnight — and the end of the session so no more bills could be approved — but was silenced by Republican parliamentary objections. Still, with only minutes left, hundreds of orange-clad protesters that thronged the public gallery and hallways of the Capitol began chanting and cheering, raising such a ruckus that all work on the Senate floor halted.
The Republican majority eventually passed the bill, but it was past midnight and too late.
Davis became an overnight political sensation, but Gov. Rick Perry has since called lawmakers back for a second special session to finish the job.
Cruz gained his own brand of national attention when he stood with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky as part of an unsuccessful filibuster over the Obama administration’s use of aerial drones. He told the about 1,000 delegates assembled Friday “we stood up to protect human life from arbitrary destruction” while Davis and other Senate Democrats were protecting the abortion industry.
In comments to reporters afterward, he said, “We saw people using tactics to try and disrupt the legislative process and to stop elected representatives from voting their principles and from voting for a policy that is supported by a large majority of Texans.”
“I thought it was unfortunate that a handful of protesters felt they had a right to shut down the legislative process,” Cruz added.
Asked specifically about Davis, whom some Democratic operatives are trying to convince to run for governor next year, Cruz replied: “I certainly respect anyone who stands and fights for their principles.”
Cruz took Washington by storm upon his arrival in January, angering Senate Democrats and even some Republicans for his outspokenness. But his profile has seemingly slipped lately. He was a vocal critic of the sweeping, federal immigration legislation the Senate overwhelmingly approved Thursday. A day later, he called the vote “unfortunate” and said the bill “won’t fix our broken immigration system.”
Still, Friday’s adoring crowd continues to see Cruz as a rising star. Acknowledging that, he joked: “The last six months have been pretty quiet.”
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