The journey to South Africa to attend former President Nelson Mandela's memorial service last week was for many of the Black congressional lawmakers who made the trip a sort of homecoming of their own. Indeed, they and several civil rights leaders and activists have credited Mandela for inspiring them to devote their professional lives to public service.
So, when the fiery Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz joined the congressional delegation for the solemn occasion, the first question on most people's minds was: Why are you here exactly?
Cruz wrote in a Facebook post that he "will live in history as an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe." But he will go down in history, at least in some people's minds, as the architect of the first government shutdown in decades in order to deny millions access to affordable health care.
So Congressional Black Caucus members, who made up the majority during the 40-hour round trip, sought answers and shared a few home truths with the Republican.
In an interview on Monday on MSNBC's Jansing & Co, Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore said Cruz, one of two Republicans and the only senator on the trip, was put "on the spot" because members were "curious" about why he would want to participate in what was for them a "solemn pilgrimage" and they gave him an "earful."
"I do think that one of the benefits of these very close quarters," said Rep. Gwen Moore, who sat next to Cruz on the plane, in a Monday interview on MSNBC "is that you are forced to have conversations outside of the context of your talking points."
The controversial Affordable Care Act was naturally a topic of discussion, but Cruz did not budge from his stance.
"He sort of stuck to his guns about it, but I do think we were able to break through some of the talking points and really challenge them," said Moore, who shared personal experiences to try to break through his "narrative."
Moore noted that throughout the trip lawmakers engaged in "some sparring" and "very candid conversation. We were very, very frank about what we saw as being wrong and the contradictions in this notion that you care about people and want to help people who are down and out and holding positions that the Tea Party holds."
One member, she added, woke up a sleeping Cruz as their bus drove through a shantytown to show him the contradictions in South Africa.
Although she's glad to have shared the experience with the Texas lawmaker, Moore is pretty certain that he won't be adjusting his views anytime soon. In fact, Cruz asked Moore at the end of the trip whether she was ready to become a Republican.
Not today's GOP, she says.
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