The long-simmering feud between Sens. John McCain and Ted Cruz boiled over this week.
McCain mocked Cruz after the Texas senator claimed he had lobbied McCain to let U.S. troops carry their personal firearms around military installations.
McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he had never heard from the 2016 presidential hopeful or his staff about the controversial topic.
“You know, I was fascinated to hear that because I haven’t heard a thing about it from him. Nor has my staff heard from his staff,” a jovial McCain told reporters late Monday. “Where did that come from? I have not a clue.”
Cruz, a Tea Party favorite from Texas, on Tuesday morning confessed he had misspoken and later formally sent a letter to McCain asking the chairman to look into the topic.
He brushed off any suggestion of animosity — but then offered a back-handed compliment to McCain, who is well-known for talking to the media.
“Oh, I like John McCain,” Cruz said. “He can always be counted on for a good quote.”
The back and forth highlights the role that McCain, the presidential nominee for the GOP in 2008, might have in an election year in which three senators already joined the party’s presidential primary.
A fourth, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), is expected to join them. A close friend of McCain’s, he shares the same outlook on national security and foreign policy.
McCain and Cruz have battled before, and the Arizona senator also has a testy relationship with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another presidential contender. The third GOP senator already in the race, Florida’s Marco Rubio, worked with McCain and Graham on a controversial immigration bill in 2013.