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Cruz and Rubio both voted against funding U.S. troops

·Political correspondent
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Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio attacked his fellow senator and primary opponent Ted Cruz for opposing a “bill that funds the troops” because he voted multiple times against the annual National Defense Authorization legislation.

“Three times, [Cruz] voted against the Defense Authorization Act, which is a bill that funds the troops. It also, by the way, funds the Iron Dome [Israeli missile defense system] and other important programs,” the Florida senator said in one of several direct confrontations he had with Cruz in Tuesday night’s CNN debate. “And I have to assume that if you vote against it in the Senate, you would also veto it as president.”

The problem with that accusation? It’s based on a false premise. The NDAA is, as its title indicates, an authorization bill, meaning that it approves programs and general initiatives for the military. It does not fund the military. The troops are funded through the annual appropriations process, and since both men have arrived in Washington, that has been done through larger spending packages that fund the entire government.

Both Rubio and the senator from Texas have consistently voted against those bills. The fight over who supports funding the troops was especially timely, because as Cruz and Rubio were trading barbs in Las Vegas over their records on this issue, Congressional negotiators in the Capitol were finalizing an omnibus spending package that would avoid a government shutdown, including a shutdown of the military. Congressional leaders are planning to hold votes on this legislation by week’s end, although neither candidate has announced his intention to attend the votes.

But if their records are any indication, even if they were to show up, they would likely oppose the year-end package. Last year, both Cruz and Rubio voted against the $1.1 trillion omnibus. Rubio has voted against almost every stopgap spending bill and spending package he’s had the chance to vote on. So has Cruz, who most notably helped lead the conservative revolt against the GOP leadership in October 2013. This led to a 16-day government shutdown, convincing fellow tea partiers to oppose any spending bill that included funds for Obamacare, while also helping Cruz to build a personal national political following.

On Tuesday night, Cruz defended his votes on the authorizing legislation — which were the focus, albeit somewhat confused — of Rubio’s criticism.

“Well, you know, Marco has continued these attacks, and he knows they’re not true. Yes, it is true that 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. “I have repeatedly supported an effort to take that out of that bill, and I honored that campaign commitment.”

Meanwhile, while Rubio felt the NDAA was important enough to attack Cruz for voting against it, it was not important enough for him to show up in October to vote to approve this year’s version of the authorization.

Instead, he was campaigning in New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Congress is expected to vote by week’s end on its year-end funding bill, which would pay for government operations through the fiscal year. Rubio and Cruz would have to be present for the roll call to fight over it at the next GOP debate, but would also have to properly characterize how the government funds programs, which they failed to do Tuesday night.

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