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Cruz faults Senate rivals for skipping pressing debates

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ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Monday tried to distinguish himself as a leader among the party’s more conservative voters by subtly scolding GOP rival Marco Rubio for skipping recent high-profile votes in the Senate.

Without mentioning Rubio by name, Cruz said Tuesday in conservative northwest Iowa that he had been “proud to lead” the failed Republican effort last month to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

“I would ask a simple question: Where were the other candidates?” Cruz, a Texas senator, told reporters before meeting with voters in Fort Dodge.

Rubio, a Florida senator, has defended the absences by saying the votes were symbolic, and that electing a Republican president is the best way to ensure Planned Parenthood’s federal funding is eliminated. Still, he has come under increased criticism from GOP rivals such as Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for missing hearings and Senate votes while making political appearances and raising money for his campaign.

Planned Parenthood is a popular target for social conservatives because of the abortion services it provides. But the clamor to end federal funding has become louder among Republicans since the release of an undercover video that includes images of body parts from aborted fetuses.

Rubio missed a procedural vote to curtail debate on the funding, and skipped the final vote later that week on financing government expenditures, which included Planned Parenthood.

Without naming Rubio, Cruz is using the September Senate action on Planned Parenthood, to build up his own support among the Republican Party’s evangelical base, which he declared Monday was vital to his campaign.

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