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FactChecking Ted Cruz

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first major Republican candidate to declare himself officially in the 2016 presidential race. In announcing his presidential ambition, Cruz repeated a number of dubious claims we have heard before, and a few we haven’t.

Some highlights:

  • Cruz railed against a “government … that seeks to ban our ammunition.” The Obama administration sought to ban a certain type of armor-piercing bullet, not all types of ammunition. The proposal has since been postponed.
  • Cruz claimed that as a result of the Affordable Care Act “millions … have lost their health insurance.” In fact, about 10 million people on net gained insurance between September 2013 and December 2014, according to the Urban Institute.
  • Cruz also claimed that as a result of the law “millions [have been] forced into part-time work.” There’s no solid figure on how many may have had their hours cut to part time, but one analysis of monthly labor surveys said the number was “likely” a few hundred thousand.

Cruz announced his candidacy in an address at Liberty University on March 23. We’ll review that speech and then highlight some of our work on claims Cruz has made over the past two years as a senator.

The Liberty Speech

In his announcement speech, Cruz accused the Obama administration of seeking “to ban our ammunition.” The administration isn’t seeking to ban the public from buying ammunition, but it recently sought to ban a certain type of armor-piercing bullet.

The federal Gun Control Act of 1968 already bans armor-piercing ammunition with exemptions for ammunition it deems “primarily intended for sporting purposes.” On Feb. 13, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives proposed withdrawing an exemption it had granted in 1986 for the “M855 ‘green tip’ ammunition,” according to the agency’s public notice explaining the proposal and seeking comments. The National Rifle Association said the M855 is commonly used in AR-15 rifles.

Cruz was one of 53 senators who signed a March 9 letter to the ATF objecting to the bureau’s proposal for the M855. On March 10, the ATF announced it would postpone issuing a final decision, saying the “vast majority” of the 80,000 comments it had received to date were critical of the proposed change and required “further study.”

Cruz also made a pitch to repeal “every word of Obamacare,” and he claimed that as a result of the law “millions … have lost their health insurance.”

Cruz isn’t the first to make this claim, which stems from President Obama’s ill-fated promise, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” That was clearly proven false when, in the fall of 2013, several million people received cancellation notices for individual market plans that no longer met the law’s benefit requirements.

But to claim simply that millions lost their health insurance is misleading. Those individual market plans were discontinued, but policyholders weren’t denied coverage. Many upgraded to compliant plans (albeit at a higher cost, for some).

Moreover, there is evidence that far more have gained coverage than had their policies canceled. According to an Urban Institute report in March, the number of insured Americans rose by nearly 10 million between September 2013 and December 2014. Overall, the rate of uninsured in the U.S. fell during that period from 17.7 percent to 12.8 percent, the report said.

Cruz also claimed that the Affordable Care Act was hurting workers, saying “millions” were being “forced into part-time work.” There may have been some impact on the hours of part-time workers, but we couldn’t find any hard data that backs up Cruz’s claim of “millions,” or even approaches that figure.

In January, part of the employer mandate took effect, requiring businesses with 100 or more workers to offer health insurance to their full-time employees or pay a fine. Full-time, for purposes of the law, is defined as 30 hours or more per week. (The requirement will apply to businesses with 50 or more workers next year, with businesses below that staffing threshold remaining exempt.) This aspect of the law has led to anecdotal stories of employers cutting workers’ hours to keep them under 30 hours.

When we asked Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, about this issue, he told us that he didn’t think the law had had much of an impact on job growth. But “[i]f there is an impact it is on the number of part-timers who would like to work full-time. This has declined since the recession, but remains high by historical standards. This probably still reflects the ill-effects of the recession, but it may also reflect the impact of Obamacare.”

One analysis, by FiveThirtyEight’s chief economics writer, Ben Casselman, found it was “likely” that the law had “led a few hundred thousand workers to see their hours cut or capped,” based partly on a small increase in the proportion of part-time employees working between 25 and 29 hours a week from 2009 to 2013 and a small drop in the proportion working between 31 and 34 hours. That’s based on the monthly Current Population Survey compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. An analysis by the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also used CPS data and found “a small increase in part-time work in 2014 beyond what would be expected at this point in the economic recovery.” But that increase affected those working between 30 and 34 hours a week, as well as those below 30 hours. The analysis said the increase in part-time work was “more likely due to a slower than normal recovery of full-time jobs following the Great Recession.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office also has estimated that more than 2 million workers would cut their own hours — voluntarily — or retire earlier than they normally would have by 2021 because of the ACA. The reason? The law offers a secure option for purchasing individual insurance through the exchanges, and it provides more financial resources, in the form of subsidies, to those with low incomes.

In January, Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (owner of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), made the same claim as Cruz — that “millions” had moved from full-time to part-time jobs. But that number was speculation, based on Puzder’s conversations with other restaurant-chain CEOs, as our fact-checking colleagues at Politifact wrote.

Cruz also repeated several misleading claims that we have written about before:

  • Cruz vowed to repeal “every word of Common Core,” which he called an effort by the federal government to “dictate school curriculum.” As we have said before, the standards were developed by governors and state education officials and voluntarily adopted by states, and the curriculum is set by state and local school officials.
  • Cruz also warned that the Affordable Care Act puts the government “between you and your doctor.” As we wrote when Cruz made a similar claim back in 2013, the law doesn’t create a government-run system. If anything, the law comes between you and your insurance company, forbidding them from capping your coverage or charging you more based on health status.
  • Cruz blamed the law for “skyrocketing health insurance premiums.” But as we have written before, premiums for those who buy their own private insurance will go up or down, in some cases significantly, depending on individual circumstances. And premiums for employer-sponsored plans, where most Americans have coverage, have increased at a much slower rate than they did under President George W. Bush.

The Cruz File

A 30-second video announcing Cruz’s candidacy for president begins, “It’s a time for truth.” Here at FactCheck.org, we couldn’t agree more.

But as our archives show, Cruz is no stranger to FactCheck.org’s pages. We have checked more than a dozen dubious claims Cruz has made since entering the Senate in January 2013. And as we will do for all of the politicians who get into the presidential race, we’ll highlight some of the misleading claims that we have examined.

Immigration Claims

Cruz voted against and has been a vocal critic of a Senate-passed immigration bill, S. 744, which has stalled in the House. After a series of border security measures are met, the bill would have allowed a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally since at least Dec. 31, 2011. The earned path to citizenship included paying fines and back taxes, proving gainful employment, completing background checks, learning English and civics, and going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants. Cruz has called any path to citizenship “amnesty.”

  • Cruz claimed in November that the 2014 midterm elections were “a referendum on amnesty” and voters had sent a clear message opposing it. But Cruz was wrong. Election voters, by a margin of 57 percent to 39 percent, said those living in the U.S. illegally but working should be offered a chance to gain legal status, according to exit polling.
  • Cruz has regularly drawn applause in recent speeches for his suggestion to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and put “every one of those 110,000 [IRS] agents … on our southern border.” But, as we have written, the IRS has nowhere near 110,000 employees, let alone that many agents. The number of IRS employees has been on the decline, and currently stands at about 82,000. Less than a quarter of them are revenue agents, special agents or revenue officers.
  • On July 21, 2013, Cruz warned that if the Senate immigration bill became law, there will be “20 or 30 million” people living in the U.S. illegally “in another 10, 20 years.” That’s his opinion, but we wrote that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill, if enacted, will reduce future illegal immigration in 10 years by 33 percent to 50 percent compared with current law.

Health Care/Affordable Care Act

Cruz has been a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, regularly calling for its full repeal, as he did in his announcement speech. But Cruz’s criticisms of the health care law have not always been on the mark.

  • In a press conference on Oct. 16, 2013, Cruz claimed that “families of special needs children will face a new penalty for using savings” to pay for medical expenses. He was referring to a $2,500 cap on pre-tax contributions to flexible spending accounts. Actually, advocates for special needs children told us that provision hasn’t had much of an impact, and the new law “greatly benefits people with disabilities.”
  • In September 2013, Cruz distorted the impact of the Affordable Care Act on premiums. He claimed that the Ohio Department of Insurance announced an 88 percent average increase for the individual market. It didn’t. The department estimated a 41 percent increase on average in a press release that called for the law’s repeal.
  • In a TV ad, Cruz misconstrued the words of the health care law’s lead author. Claiming “there’s bipartisan agreement that Obamacare isn’t working,” Cruz said Max Baucus, a Democratic senator at the time, called the law “a huge train wreck.” But Baucus didn’t say “Obamacare isn’t working,” and he didn’t call it “a huge train wreck.” He was critical of the education and outreach efforts of the administration during implementation of the law, not the law itself.

We also dealt with a flurry of misleading claims Cruz made about the Affordable Care Act during his 21-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor — which started Sept. 24, 2013, and ended the following day. We tackled those claims in two separate stories. Among the misleading claims:

  • Cruz misrepresented union opposition to the health care law. Cruz claimed unions, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, want to “repeal” the health care law “because it is a nightmare.” Three unions used the word “nightmare” in a letter to Democratic leaders in Congress. But they asked that the law be fixed, not repealed.
  • Cruz falsely claimed that the spouses of 15,000 UPS employees will be “left without health insurance” and forced into “an exchange with no employer subsidy.” UPS announced it was dropping coverage for spouses, but only if they can get insurance with their own employer.
  • Cruz repeated the false claim that members of Congress are exempt from the health care law. As we have written numerous times, the law requires congressional members and their staffs to get insurance through the newly created exchanges, so they are not exempt. In fact, the law prevents them from getting insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, like other federal employees. However, the federal government will continue to make contributions toward the premiums of lawmakers and their staffs — just as most large employers do for their employees.


In a recent critique of NASA spending on earth and atmospheric sciences, Cruz claimed there has been a “disproportionate increase” since 2009 in funding of earth sciences. There has been an increase, but spending on earth sciences is lower now as a percentage of NASA’s budget than it was in fiscal 2000. And the increase reflects an effort to restore funding that had been cut. Cruz also suggested that NASA’s “core mission” does not include earth sciences. In fact, studying the Earth and atmosphere has been central to NASA’s mission since its creation in 1958.

In a video response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in January, Cruz claimed that “not a word was said about radical Islamic terrorism.” Obama didn’t use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” but he vowed to combat “violent extremism” and asked for congressional authority to use force against the Islamic State. Cruz also said Obama “could not bring himself even to bring” up the president’s executive action on immigration. But he did. Obama said he would veto legislation that attempts to undo it.

Cruz condemned Obama’s announcement that he would normalize relations with Cuba, calling the communist country “a leading state sponsor of terrorism.” That’s a stretch, to say the least. While Cuba – along with Iran, Syria and Sudan — is listed by the State Department as one of four “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” the department’s annual Country Report on Terrorism, published in April, provided little evidence of Cuba sponsoring terrorism, especially compared with the extensive portfolio of the others on that list.

One last thing for the record: While we noted that Cruz is the first major candidate to officially enter the 2016 presidential race, he is by no means the first. According to the Federal Elections Commission, 194 candidates, including 55 Republicans, beat Cruz to the punch.

Updated, March 27: Please see “FactChecking Ted Cruz, Part II” for more about Cruz’s announcement speech. 

— Robert Farley, Lori Robertson and Eugene Kiely