Who's More Conservative, Ted Cruz or Rand Paul?

Michael Catalini
May 7, 2013

On a host of high-visibility issues, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky view things alike. They’re both for lower taxes and less government spending. They’re both opposed to gun control legislation. They’ve both acted as a thorn in Democrats’ sides as frequently as possible. 

Cruz and Paul voted alike in 103 of the 109 roll call votes they cast together in this Congress. The handful of times they’ve voted differently have been mostly over presidential nominations. Cruz, for example, voted against John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and Jacob Lew, while Paul voted in favor. 

But, Cruz and Paul have shown that they have differences in style, even if they don't disagree much on policy. So who's more conservative?  Here's a look at the tale of the tape on key issues: 


The edge goes to Cruz here for holding the conservative line against a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country. Called an "audacious opponent" of the bipartisan push to reform the country's immigration system, Cruz explicitly rejected the idea. "In my view, any bill that insists upon [a pathway to citizenship] jeopardizes the likelihood of passing any immigration-reform bill,” Cruz told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.

Paul, in contrast, spoke to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and even quoted Miguel de Unamuno and Pablo Neruda. "Immigration reform will not occur until conservative Republicans, like myself, become part of the solution. I am here today to begin that conversation," Paul said. Since the Boston bombings, though, Paul re-calibrated his views, suggesting he could oppose the Gang of Eight's plan. The bombings, Paul said, "exposed a weakness in our current system." Paul may well end up voting with Cruz against comprehensive immigration reform, but his overall tone has been much more supportive than Cruz. ADVANTAGE: CRUZ

Cabinet Picks

Both Cruz and Paul criticized President Obama's selections for Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel. But only Cruz voted against both of them for confirmation. (Cruz also voted against Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, while Paul voted for confirmation.) Cruz opposed Kerry, whom he suggested was weak on national security issues. “I was compelled to vote no on Senator Kerry's nomination because of his longstanding less-than-vigorous defense of U.S. national security issues and, in particular, his long record of supporting treaties and international tribunals that have undermined U.S. sovereignty,” Cruz said. Asked about Kerry and then-nominee Hagel, Cruz said they were "very prominently less than ardent fans of the U.S. military." Paul voted against a procedural motion before voting in favor of Hagel, a move his office explained this way: Presidents should get "some leeway" on political appointments. ADVANTAGE: CRUZ


Paul famously took the lead in filibustering now-CIA director John Brennan over drones. Paul argued on the Senate floor against the potential use of drones against U.S. citizens on American soil. His talk-athon even convinced Attorney General Eric Holder to issue a statement saying in one word--"no"--that the president does not have any such authority. The 13-hour event rallied conservatives to Paul's side.  Cruz went to the floor to relieve Paul during the marathon event, but played a lower-profile role than his counterpart. ADVANTAGE: PAUL

Gun Control

Cruz and Paul both voted no on the Manchin-Toomey legislation on background checks. Cruz included Paul (along with Mike Lee of Utah) as conservative stalwarts who stood up to others in their party on gun control. “They said, ‘Listen, before you did this, the politics of it were great. The [Democrats] were the bad guys, the Republicans were the good guys. Now we all look like a bunch of squishes.’” Cruz said. "You could just not be a bunch of squishes." Paul criticized the attempts at crafting gun control legislation as "window dressing," accused President Obama of using the families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shooting as props and argued that none of the proposals suggested would have addressed that tragedy. PUSH

Internet Sales Tax

Both Cruz and Paul were among the 27 senators who voted against the legislation. Both Cruz and Paul wrote an op-ed indicting the logic behind the legislation that would require businesses to collect state and local taxes for items sold online. Cruz argued that "tax-hungry politicians view the Internet as yet another source of revenue to bail out their big-spending governments." He went on, "Senators who vote for it are voting to impose audits, compliance costs, lost wages, and inefficiency on small businesses in every state." Paul, too, took shots at fellow Republicans who supported the bill, writing, "The Republican Party is supposed to oppose tax increases and burdensome, unnecessary government regulations. But sometimes, they lose their way." PUSH

CORRECTION: Cruz and Paul voted together on 103 of the 109 roll call votes they cast together. An earlier version of the story reported the incorrect number.