The foreign policy disagreements between Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) were on full display on Tuesday.
The two presidential candidates have sniped at one another about national security for weeks. Rubio has argued that Cruz’s votes against military spending bills and National Security Agency surveillance programs has stripped the U.S. government of vital counterterrorism tools. Cruz has charged that Rubio’s plan to arm Syrian rebels and replace dictator Bashar al-Assad plays into the hands of terrorist groups like the Islamic State.
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Moderator Wolf Blitzer goaded the two into direct confrontation during CNN’s foreign policy debate.
"Senator Rubio, you have been critical of Senator Cruz’s strategy. You say his voting record doesn’t match his rhetoric. Why?" Blitzer asked.
Rubio said that Cruz’s votes against the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would defund programs vital to the security of the U.S. and its allies. Cruz was one of only two senators, along with libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.), to oppose that defense bill in October.
"Three times he voted against the National Defense Authorization Act, which is a bill that funds the troops. It also, by the way, funds Iron Dome and other important programs," Rubio said, referring to Israel’s air defense platform, which is supported with financial aid from the U.S.
Cruz responded that he opposed the NDAA to fulfill a campaign promise about indefinite detention.
"I voted against the National Defense Authorization Act because when I campaigned in Texas, I told voters in Texas that I would oppose the federal government having the authority to detain U.S. citizens permanently with no due process," Cruz said.
Rubio responded that individuals who wage war against the U.S. forfeit the constitutional protections of civilians.
"If you’re an American citizen and you decide to join up with ISIS, we’re not going to read you your Miranda rights. You’re going to be treated as an enemy combatant—a member of an army attacking this country," Rubio said.
While the candidates feuded over civil liberties, both expressed willingness to project power abroad.
"Radical Islamic terrorism will face no more determined foe than I will be," Cruz said.
"We are the most powerful nation in the world. We need to begin to act like it again," Rubio said.