Texas 'Cruz Missile' -- Senator standing by his principles, ready to take the heat

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), believes the nonprofit campaigned against Netanyahu after taking US taxpayer-funded grants.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), believes the nonprofit campaigned against Netanyahu after taking US taxpayer-funded grants.  (AP)

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has earned a few nicknames in the brief seven weeks he’s been in Congress – including the unflattering “Senator No.” But nobody can say the freshman senator has broken his campaign promise to shake up Washington upon arrival.

The Tea Party-backed candidate has so far made good on vows to be combative and uncompromising in his adherence to conservative principles.

The 42-year-old Cruz has already voted against Senate rule changes to modestly curb filibusters, aid for Superstorm Sandy victims and the Violence Against Women Act, arguing that stopping and punishing violent criminals is largely a state responsibility.

He also was one of only three "no" votes against Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry's nomination to be secretary of State. And he publicly skewered President Obama’s nominee for Defense secretary, former Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel.

All of that has helped Cruz earn such nicknames as “Cruz Missile,” “Senator No” and even “The GOP's Nasty Newcomer.”

He also was featured in the past few weeks by Politico and The New York Times.

Senior Texas Sen. John Cornyn and voters across the state have praised Cruz for his brashness and sticking to his principles.  

"He's been a terrific partner," Cornyn said. "What he's finding is there's a lot of critics in Washington when you try to change the status quo."

At a stop last week at Lodge Lumber, in Houston, owner John Lodge said Cruz seems like the first elected official in a long while who is on his side.

He's gotten down to business," Lodge said. "He's the man."

However, Cruz’s actions have also resulted in sharp criticism from both parties.

Republicans worry about whether the Cuban-American lawmaker, whose father was tortured in Castro's Cuba, went too far by challenging Hagel’s integrity and if he will spoil their efforts to reach out more to Hispanic voters.

MSNBC host and Democrat Chris Matthews went as far as to compare Cruz’s suggestion that Hagel has been too cozy with Iran and North Korea to former Sen. Joseph McCarthy accusing politicians and other public figures of being Communist sympathizers.

“My view is simple: Washington is a rough-and-tumble place,” Cruz said last week. “If folks want to attack me personally, they're welcome to it. Texans elected a senator to go to Washington and speak the truth."

This weekend, Cruz, a Harvard Law School graduate and former clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, doubled down on past remarks about Marxist professors at his former law school, revisited in a recent story in The New Yorker.

“The New Yorker is shocked -- shocked -- to discover that there are Marxists on the Harvard faculty,” said Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier. “It's curious that the New Yorker would dredge up a 3-year-old speech and call it ‘news.’ "Regardless, Senator Cruz's substantive point was absolutely correct: In the mid-1990s, the Harvard Law School faculty included numerous self-described proponents of ‘critical legal studies’ -- a school of thought explicitly derived from Marxism.”

Still, Cruz allows the Hagel grilling might have resulted in negative consequences.

"The flurry of attacks on me has had their intended effect, which was to shift the conversation away from Chuck Hagel," he said. "Away from his record, away from his refusal to provide financial disclosures, and toward the direct, nasty, personal attacks leveled at me."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.