MCALLEN — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Friday praised the law enforcement experience of Michael McCaul, his fellow Texas Republican whom President-elect Donald Trump is considering for Homeland Security secretary. Yet Cruz stopped short of endorsing the Austin congressman for the job, saying the decision is ultimately up to Trump.
Cruz's comments came as immigration hardliners increasingly seek to derail McCaul's bid for the Cabinet post, an effort the congressman has denounced as slanderous. McCaul met with Trump earlier this week in New York, but no decision has been announced yet on the Homeland Security post.
"I think Congressman McCaul is a good man, he’s a Texan, he’s someone I’ve known and been friends with for a lot of years, and I think he has a lot of experience in law enforcement, both in the Texas attorney general’s office and also chairing Homeland Security in the House of Representatives," Cruz told reporters after a border security roundtable. "So I’m encouraged to see the president-elect talking to a Texan with so much experience as Michael McCaul has."
Asked if he recommends McCaul for Homeland Security secretary, Cruz struck a deferential tone.
"That’s ultimately the decision for the president-elect to make," Cruz said. "But I certainly would encourage as many Texans as possible to be in the new administration, and I think the Department of Homeland Security, in particular, it’s critical that you have serious experienced leaders who will do what it takes to get the job done."
In recent days, McCaul has come under fire from illegal immigration opponents who claim he has not been tough enough on the problem in Congress. In a TV interview Wednesday, McCaul called such criticism "incredulous and inflammatory and ... slanderous."
McCaul's future is not irrelevant to Cruz. The Austin congressman has been encouraged to challenge Cruz in 2018, a potential campaign that would become much less likely if Trump tapped McCaul for a job in Washington.
Cruz spoke with reporters Friday following a border security discussion with local officials, including state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville. In remarks at the beginning of the roundtable, Cruz expressed hope that the Trump administration will move quickly to roll back many Obama immigration initiatives, including the so-called practice of "catch and release" involving people in the country illegally who have committed violent crimes.
"My hope is that will change quickly, and I certainly intend to do everything I can to help it change quickly," Cruz said. "In the long term, I'd like to see Congress act and legislative steps to help provide additional resources, additional tools to effectively secure the border, but in the short term, I think there's a great deal that the new administration can do unilaterally simply by enforcing the law."