(RepublicanWire.org) – Republican Sen. Ted Cruz sought to push through a plan to direct billions of federal dollars toward more police officers and mental health counselors in the nation’s schools, but was blocked by Democrats who criticized his move as grandstanding rather than a serious effort.
Cruz rose on the Senate floor mid-afternoon on Wednesday and described a prayer vigil he attended in Uvalde after the Robb Elementary School shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead.
Grief-stricken residents wept openly as they mourned their losses, he recalled, adding that he has visited other Texas communities rocked by mass shootings over the years.
He alluded to a common pattern of alienated young men descending into mental illness over time before ultimately committing unspeakable crimes.
“If we had additional mental health resources on campuses, they would be in a position to spot the warning signs, to see the young man heading down that dangerous path and to intervene and stop them,” Cruz said.
Cruz said his bill would double the number of school resource officers, improve physical security of schools and triple a FEMA security grant program.
It also has $10 billion in grants for schools to hire mental health professionals.
Cruz cited numbers from the National Center for Education Statistics indicating many schools still lack adequate mental health funding.
His bill tracks with a proposal he offered earlier as an alternative to the bipartisan package ultimately approved by the Senate in the wake of the Uvalde massacre.
President Joe Biden signed into law the bipartisan package of mental health support, school safety funding and modest changes to the nation’s gun regulations.
Cruz voted against the bipartisan package, which was negotiated by his home state Republican colleague Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Cruz tried Wednesday to get his own bill passed through what is known as “unanimous consent,” in which legislation is deemed approved if no senator objects. He did the same with another bill that would allow schools to use some of their unspent coronavirus pandemic relief money on security measures.
Murphy stated simply “I object” on Cruz’s first bill, which prompted Cruz to say he was “genuinely flabbergasted” that Murphy would block his proposal without first debating its merits.
Cruz described the bipartisan bill Murphy and Cornyn wrote as a “big gun control package” that “will do nothing, zero, to stop mass murders” and predicted the country will see further such incidents.
“I pray that we don’t, but evil exists in the world and if another lunatic attacks a school and there’s not a police officer at the front door to stop him, remember right now, remember this moment when the Democrats said ‘no, we will not protect our kids,’” Cruz said.
Murphy also objected to Cruz’s bill to redirect unspent pandemic relief money and said he was indeed not interested in engaging in what he characterized as a Cruz bid for attention rather than an honest attempt to achieve anything.
“This isn’t real. This is a TV show. This is clickbait. This is theater,” Murphy said of Cruz. “This isn’t an actual attempt to pass legislation.”
Murphy said he recently was approached by another Republican senator, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, about the legislation in question. Murphy said he and Lankford are having serious discussions that stand in contrast to Cruz’s approach.
In an interview afterward, Cruz said he had no information about Murphy’s talks with Lankford and reiterated his criticism of Murphy for not engaging in substantive debate.
Asked about his rationale for excluding schools from mental health funding on the basis of their curriculum, Cruz said he would provide a written statement later.
In the statement, Cruz did not directly address why he would exclude some schools but noted Murphy did not raise objections to specific provisions in the bill and questioned why Murphy also blocked the other proposal to spend unused relief money on school security.
“The only reason Murphy and the Democrats blocked school safety measures today was because they were more interested in playing partisan games,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s actions come as advocates are pushing the Senate to pass a federal ban on certain semi-automatic firearms they describe as “assault weapons.”
Cornyn, who also opposes such a ban, has touted the benefits of the bipartisan package he helped shepherd into law.
In an interview Wednesday, Cornyn said he hadn’t studied the details of Cruz’s latest proposal but noted the package he already got enacted included significant resources for mental health and school security.
“I’m not sure more money on top of this is necessarily the answer,” Cornyn said.