NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Much of the political landscape has changed since U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz was the belle of the ball at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference, but he still received a warm welcome at the annual gathering of conservatives Thursday morning.
The audience at CPAC cheered the Texas Republican he engaged in a question-and-answer session with conservative radio host Mark Levin.
Cruz hit the right tones for this crowd, referring to the Democratic base as "bat-crap crazy" and inexplicably predicting a new vacancy at the U.S. Supreme Court for President Trump to fill by the summer when none of the court's current members have publicly announced plans to retire so soon.
"We have the opportunity for this to be an historic Congress, the most productive Congress in decades," Cruz said. "This year, in 2017, we should repeal Obamacare, confirm a strong conservative for the Supreme Court and pass fundamental tax reform – ideally a flat tax."
He later added defunding the United Nations to his legislative to-do list.
Cruz has had an unsteady return to the political world after delegates booed him at the Republican National Convention last summer as he refused to endorse Trump for president. But CPAC-goers cheered the senator both as he walked on — and later off — the stage to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling."
Yet many of the conference's attendees on Thursday were more focused on the next day, when President Trump is scheduled to address the event.
Another Texan, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville, also addressed the crowd as part of a panel focused on repealing the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's 2010 health care law.
In the face of reports of widespread disagreement over the path forward for Republicans on the issue, Burgess insisted that the empowered GOP will successfully repeal and replace the law.
"We will get it done," he said.
When asked on timing, Burgess repeated: "We will get it done."