DANA BASH, HOST: Senator, thank you so much for sitting down with me.
Let’s talk about tax reform. The House and Senate Republican leaders have said that they are going to unveil their plan, with the White House, later this month and they hope to move it through committee (INAUDIBLE). You have your own plan out. What do you hope to see in the official Republican tax reform plan?
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Well, as you know, today I gave a speech laying out seven essential eliminates that I think would be important to have–
CRUZ: – to focus on growth and jobs. And a number of pieces that I think are very important. Number one, let’s simplify the tax code. Let’s let everyone fill out their taxes on a postcard. We spend about nine billion hours a year wasting time with the IRS. The world would be much, much simpler if you and I and everyone else just filled out a postcard. We produced a postcard. That’s one thing I’m urging. Another big thing that I’m urging is what’s called immediate expensing. And what that means is that businesses, farmers, ranchers, if you spend money on a capital investment, you can immediately expense that and deduct it from what you’re paying taxes on. That has a huge impact on jobs and economic growth. It means that if a farmer wants to buy a new tractor, it’s easier to buy a new tractor. It means if a steel worker is working in a steel factory, an auto worker in an auto factory, it’s easier for the company to invest in a new factory and create more jobs. It means if a single mom is working as a waitress, that it’s easier for the restaurant to grow and expand. A truck driver, it’s easier to buy a truck. All of those are real impacts that affect jobs and wages. And it’s one of the most pro-growth pieces we have.
BASH: So I heard you talk about some of this – all of this – on the campaign trail during your presidential run. Does it seem as though, particularly the simple simplified individual tax rate is going to happen? What do you need to see in a tax reform bill, a tax cut bill, whatever it ends up being, to get your vote?
CRUZ: Well, listen, Republicans need to get our act together and get it done. I think–
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) the if?
CRUZ: Deliver on our promises. I think the four big priorities are tax reform, repealing ObamaCare, regulatory reform and confirming strong constitutionalists. If we do all four, this could be the most productive Congress in decades.
BASH: But on tax reform, what do you consider a victory for the voters who put Republicans in charge?
CRUZ: As a practical matter, it’s going to be whatever can get 50 votes in the Senate. We have a very narrow majority.
BASH: And it is very practical coming from you.
CRUZ: Well, and there’s wide intent. Every Republican wants tax reform. You know, we would end up with something kind of like the Bush tax cuts lite, some modest reduction in rates, a little bit of simplification and that.
BASH: Would you be OK with that?
CRUZ: I’d vote for that. That would be improvement from the status quo. That would be good. I hope we do a lot better. I mean we’ve got an opportunity. If we come in with full expensing, if we simplify the tax code. If we cut the rates, we have an opportunity to see millions of new jobs created, to really raise wages. And, you know, I think it’s almost as hard to pass a big meaningful tax reform bill as it is to pass a small piddling. And so I’m urging folks look, let’s go big. For example, let’s have a tax cut, not just tax reform. Let’s not be revenue-neutral, let’s have a real tax cut. Let’s cut taxes for families who are struggling, for small businesses, let’s direct it at creating jobs. And one of the things I urged today is let’s use this opportunity, also, to repeal Dodd-Frank. Dodd-Frank is driving community banks out of business. It’s driving credit unions out of business. And that’s all the capital that goes to small businesses and creates jobs. If Republicans want to win, we have the opportunity in 2018 to grow our Senate majority to win. We need to be the party of jobs and being bold and aggressive on taxes is the best way to create jobs.
BASH: Let’s talk about the Tweet. @tedcruz, your Twitter handle, liked a post that was clearly porn. What happened?
CRUZ: Look, it was – we had a staffer who accidentally hit the wrong button. And it was a screw-up. I will say Twitter went crazy with it. It became trending. As soon as we found out about it, we pulled it down. And it’s generated a lot of amusement. It has prompted a lot of jokes. I understand that. I saw one person joking online that if only this had happened during the presidential, Cruz might be in the White House right now.
BASH: Have you identified the staffer? Do you know who it is?
CRUZ: We have looked into it. Yes. We have identified it. We pulled it down. He was – it was an honest mistake.
BASH: What –
CRUZ: It was not – it wasn’t malicious, it wasn’t deliberate. It was a screw-up.
BASH: Is the staffer being punished?
CRUZ: We have talked with the staffer. It’s not going to happen. It was a screw-up.
BASH: So the staffer – can you tell me the staffer’s name?
CRUZ: I’m not going to out the fellow. I mean this is – we’re – we have dealt with it internally. But I’m not going to throw someone under the bus for what was an honest mistake that caused, you know, a whole lot of laughter on Twitter, but was not malicious. And I promise you, the staffer feels terrible.
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) we say that it wasn’t you?
CRUZ: It was not me and it’s not going to happen again. The staff – this was a screw-up.
BASH: You understand that it’s hard to believe that a random staffer accidentally liked a porn site at midnight?
CRUZ: Look, we have a whole team of people that have access to it. It’s part of running a campaign, running an operation, is you have a whole team of people screw up. People make mistakes.
BASH: Do you appreciate the irony that you once defended a Texas law banning sales of sex books – sex toys?
CRUZ: No, actually. Actually, I don’t – that’s a good example, Dana, of where the media runs with things that are just totally false.
BASH: What’s false about that?
CRUZ: So what is false about that, so I’ve read online, you know, Cruz supports banning sex books.
BASH: No, no, no.
CRUZ: But that’s complete nonsense.
BASH: The sale. I just – I reread the brief this morning.
BASH: The sale of it.
CRUZ: All right. I spent five and a half years as the solicitor-general of Texas. I worked for the attorney general. The attorney general’s law, job, is to defend the laws passed by the Texas legislature.
BASH: I get it. Yes.
CRUZ: One of those laws was a law restricting the sale of sex toys. A stupid law. Listen, I am one of those libertarian members of the Senate. I think it’s idiotic.
BASH: So you did it because it was your job, not because it–
CRUZ: It was the job of the office to defend the legislature’s laws.
BASH: Was it–
CRUZ: I can tell you, the lawyers in my office, nobody wanted to do the case. I didn’t handle the case personally. I had a lawyer on the staff handle it. But my name was on every brief that was filed. It was an idiotic law. But it is an opportunity for knuckleheads in the media to claim, oh, isn’t this ironic that Cruz–
CRUZ: – wants to ban these things.
BASH: OK. I can’t stop –
CRUZ: People ought to be able to do what they want.
BASH: I can’t believe I’m going to ask you this, but so you’re officially saying Ted Cruz is OK with people buying sex toys?
CRUZ: I am saying that consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms. And, you know, the media and the left seem obsessed with sex. Let people do what they want. We ought to focus on tax reform, on regulatory reform, on ObamaCare, on jobs. That’s what Texans want. They don’t want this obsession with all sorts of issues. You know, as you know, we’re coming out of a massive hurricane in Texas, Hurricane Harvey, obviously, Hurricane Irma on the east coast have done enormous damage (ph). The last several weeks, we’ve seen Texans coming together in a way that’s been powerful, in a way that has been – there’s been a unity of people risking their lives to save others, helping others, giving sacrificially. And one of the things that I hear from Texans a lot is how glad they are we’re focusing on the things that matter instead of the nonsense, the story and scandal of the day and all the nonsense that seems to consume a lot of the national (INAUDIBLE)–
BASH: But you – I’m going to move on, but you understand with this, it’s a story, obviously, because it’s sensational.
CRUZ: Oh, sure.
BASH: But also because it flies in the face of a lot of things, never mind the sex toy law, but a lot of the things that you espouse and you believe in.
CRUZ: Listen, it obviously is not something anyone would do deliberately. It was a mistake from a staffer. It was a screw-up that had a lot of folks (INAUDIBLE).
BASH: Let’s talk about ObamaCare. You became a national figure, in large part, when you came to the Senate by railing against ObamaCare, doing whatever it took to repeal ObamaCare. How much are Republican voters going to punish you and your fellow Republicans–
BASH: – for not doing the job even though you have full control of Washington?
CRUZ: Listen, I think that’s a very real (INAUDIBLE). You know, a couple of months ago, when we had the last vote on ObamaCare, people (INAUDIBLE). And it was heartbreaking. And people have ticked off, you know, when I went home to Texas and I had all my colleagues who went home, Republicans have promised for seven years, if you elect us, we will repeal this disaster. I’ll tell you now, I don’t think we’re done with it. I think failure is not an option. I think we’re a lot closer than many observers believe. I think we probably have 45, 46 votes in the Senate for meaningful ObamaCare repeal that will expand choices, expand competition and lower premiums. And we’re not there. We need another four or five votes.
BASH: Do you think if tax reform is successful it would give momentum?
CRUZ: I think those are the two big, big things we need to accomplish. And we need to do both. And I am spending every waking moment now trying to bring Republicans together. Sitting down with conservatives and moderates and leadership and the administration and trying to say look, the way we get this done, let’s focus on lowering premiums. The biggest reason people hate ObamaCare is their premiums have skyrocketed. So I hear that in Texas all the time. I can’t afford health insurance, because the average family’s premiums have gone up over $5,000 a year under ObamaCare. So one of the tools I think for repealing ObamaCare, as you know, I introduced The Consumer Freedom Amendment, that was adopted in the Senate plan, that says you, the consumer, should be in charge of your health care. You should be able to choose whatever health insurance you buy for your family. And the Health and Human Services Agency concluded that The Consumer Freedom Amendment would increase insurance coverage by 2.2 million people and decrease premiums by $7,000 a year. Now, if you’re a working person, if you’re a single mom waiting tables, if you’re a factory worker, seven grand a year is real money. If you’re a young person starting your career, that’s real money. I think that’s how we unite Republicans and get it done. And I’m committed to doing that.
BASH: Speaking of uniting Republicans, I remember following you around on the campaign trail in 2016 and you would say that conservatives, you said (INAUDIBLE) think what we need is more Republicans in Washington to cut a deal with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Donald Trump is your guy. Is there any part of you that wanted to say I told you so to conservatives when he cut a deal?
CRUZ: Well, listen, in the primary, Trump was not my first choice. As you know, I tried very hard, came close, but didn’t win. Trump won. He won the nomination. He won the election. He is our president. And the role that I’m trying to play now is to do everything I can to encourage the president, encourage the administration to enact positive policy proposals and not to go in a negative direction. I’m speaking frequently with the president, speaking frequently with cabinet members.
BASH: The president is having dinner tonight with the Democratic leaders. How do you feel about that?
CRUZ: Oh, I think that’s fine. And I think it’s perfectly fine. I talk to Democrats all the time.
BASH: But are you afraid he’s going to keep cutting deals with Democrats?
CRUZ: You know, I will say, if you look at the substantive policies we’ve seen in the first nine months, I think the substantive record has been quite strong. I think Neil Gorsuch was a home run, the most significant thing President Trump has done. I think the cabinet appointments have been very strong. I think on regulations, the regulatory steps have been very, very positive. And so I’m going to continue encouraging the president, encouraging the administration, encouraging Congress, let’s do what we said we would do. You know, you do–
BASH: And what if that includes making compromise after compromise with Democrats, which a lot of Americans, many Americans, applaud. Some conservatives not so much.
CRUZ: Look, compromise is perfectly appropriate if you’re moving in the right direction. As you know, I’ve always said, my approach on compromise is Ronald Reagan’s. Reagan said what do you do if they offer you half a lemon? And so you take it. And you then you come back for more. So let’s go back to tax reform, where we started. It’s a great example. I am a passionate believer in a simple flat tax, a simple flat tax that’s fair and uniform for everyone. I’d love to see that. I intend to continue fighting for that and to keep fighting to abolish the IRS. We may not get that done this time. That may be a bridge too far. Congress may not be ready to go that far. So you know what? If we go from seven brackets down to three or down to two, that’s an improvement. That’s a compromise. It’s less than what I’d like, but it’s moving in the right direction. Listen, if the administration makes some compromises, where they don’t achieve 100 percent of what we want but we see more jobs, higher wages, less regulation, less spending, less debt, those compromises are fine. If we make compromises that make the problem worse, so for example, on ObamaCare, if we just see a giant bailout for the insurance companies and nothing for the consumers, whose premiums are skyrocketing, that’s a bad compromise. That’s not honoring our promises. But if we’re honoring our promises, then we’re doing the right thing.
BASH: I have to ask you (INAUDIBLE) get going, but I have to ask you about Steve Bannon, who said on “60 Minutes” (INAUDIBLE) recently that he’s declaring war on the GOP leaders, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan in the House. And you’ve certainly had your share of battles with Republican leaders. Are you going to help Steve Bannon?
CRUZ: Listen, Steve Bannon is welcome to do what he’d like. What I am trying to do is bring our party together to deliver results. I mean we’ve been given an opportunity that doesn’t happen very often. History has shown, we don’t very often get a Republican president, Republican heads of every agency, Republican majorities in both houses. If we screw this up, it may not come again for a long time. And so – and I hear that from Texans all the time. They say what’s wrong with you guys? Actually delivering–
BASH: So you’re not going to support any Republican primary challengers?
CRUZ: I have stayed out of incumbent primaries the entire time I’ve been in the Senate. I’ve stayed out of incumbent primaries.
CRUZ: And I’m continuing to do that.
BASH: It was an open seat, but you’re only sitting here – you’re only a United States senator because you bucked the establishment candidate. You beat the establishment candidate. And so do you know – do you understand where Bannon and his followers are coming from?
CRUZ: Listen, I understand frustration with Washington as well as anybody. You know, I will say that I think I’m in a relatively unusual (INAUDIBLE), in that there are not many people that can speak with real credibility to conservatives but can also speak to moderates, can speak to leadership, can speak to the administration. You know, on ObamaCare, I joined with Lamar Alexander, long-time Senate elder statesman, in leading the ObamaCare working group, initially a group of six senators. It grew to be a much larger group, that drafted much of the Senate bill. And I do think, you know, the reason I ran for Senate, I believe this stuff. I believe in free market principles. I believe in individual freedom that lifts people up. It gives people more opportunity. It gives people like my dad, who washed dishes making 50 cents an hour, that’s who I’m fighting for is folks who want to achieve the American dream. And we’ve got a chance to really implement tax reform, to repeal ObamaCare, to expand freedom, to reduce regulations, to see small businesses grow, I don’t want to waste this chance. And so I am spending every waking moment sitting down with senators and House members and the administration, trying to say all right, where do we have common ground? How can we come together in the Senate? How do we get to 50? If we do that, we can deliver on our promises. And if we don’t, I think the American people rightly will be very frustrated at politicians who were more talk than action.
BASH: Senator Cruz, thank you so much for your time.
CRUZ: Thank you.
BASH: We appreciate it. Thank you.