Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz unveiled a list of agencies that he plans to eliminate if he’s elected president. His “Five for Freedom” plan targets the IRS and the Departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development.
Noticeably absent from the list was the Transportation Security Administration, an agency Cruz had told Texas voters he wanted to abolish back during his successful campaign for Senate three years earlier. At the time, the TSA was under fire for intrusive airport screening procedures. Such calls for the agency’s abolishment have since waned, particularly following last month’s downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and terrorist attacks in Paris.
Cruz’s campaign has declined multiple requests by the Tribune to say whether the senator and presidential candidate still supports eliminating the TSA.
“Here is the list of agencies eliminated,” Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler wrote in an email last week, alongside a link to a page on Cruz’s campaign website that lists 30 government agencies, commissions and programs that constitute his current hit list. The TSA is not on it.
“There may be more, but these are the ones we’ve announced,” Tyler wrote.
Anger over the TSA was a key campaign issue for Cruz in 2012. His leading Republican primary opponent, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, had drawn the ire of activists a year earlier over the death of state legislation that would have criminalized invasive searches by TSA agents in Texas. Cruz’s campaign used the incident to paint Dewhurst as “a timid, career politician who caved to the Obama administration.” They also released an animated video showing a family sarcastically thanking Dewhurst while going through airport security.
During that period, Cruz's campaign cited the TSA as an agency he wanted to abolish, along with the IRS, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Departments of Education, Commerce and Energy. Along with gaining mention in media reports about Cruz, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace mentioned Cruz's TSA position in an interview in August 2012.
“Let's look at where you stand on the issues,” Wallace said. “You want to abolish Education, Commerce and Energy Departments, TSA and the IRS. You support a flat tax and you serve Chick-fil-A at your victory party. You are pretty conservative?”
“Without a doubt,” Cruz said. “And I think the American people are pretty conservative, and I'm certain the people of Texas are pretty conservative.”
The lack of clarity on Cruz’s position is at odds with Cruz’s efforts to frame himself as the “consistent conservative” in the presidential race. The phrase shows up several times on his campaign site and often appears in public speeches.
In September, Cruz told Politico, “The clearest distinction is that, of the Republican candidates running, I am the only consistent conservative who, on issue after issue after issue, has been the same yesterday, today, tomorrow.”
Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has been the most outspoken against the TSA among the presidential candidates, having called for abolishing the agency and filing legislation to privatize airport security around the country. Campaign spokesman Sergio Gor confirmed this week that Paul's position on the issue has not changed.