WASHINGTON -- He's one of the most important new faces of the Republican party and the first Hispanic senator from the Lone Star State.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a rising star among conservatives. While he's still getting used to the title, the Lone Star State's new senator is already making waves.
"Anytime anyone says senator I turn around and try to find out who on earth they're talking to," Cruz said.
The Tea Party favorite told CBN News that people should not expect his conservative principles to waver now that he's in Washington.
"More than anything else, what I intend to fight for in the U.S. Senate is to preserve that opportunity to seek the American dream -- not just for us, but for our kids and our grandkids and every generation to come," he said.
Cruz, the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, took the oath of office on the family Bible. He's now on a crusade to reform the Republican Party, preaching what he calls "opportunity conservatism," a pro-growth message designed to cross party lines.
"One of the tremendous things about Americans (is that) none of us want to be dependent on government," he said. "All of us want to stand on our feet, provide for our families, work toward the American dream."
He says he's willing to work with Democrats on policies that grow the economy, unlike what he calls the "lousy deal" to avoid the fiscal cliff.
In that fight, Cruz said Democrats had the upper hand. But he believes the tables will be turned in the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
"I think if conservatives stand strong -- stand for principle and say we've got to fix the problems," he told CBN News.
"It is immoral to saddle our kids with trillions in debt," he continued. "Then the debt ceiling presents a real leverage point to get serious fundamental reforms to start fixing these problems."
He even suggests refusing to raise the debt ceiling to force a partial government shutdown, like the one in 1995.
"The result was some political pain, but the result was also year after year of balanced budgets and some of the most fiscally responsible policies this Congress has ever produced," he said.
Cruz credits his Christian faith and his father's escape from Cuba for shaping his political world view, which he says will guide him as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"Having principled men and women in office is how we protect ourselves from tyranny," he said. "And one of the great blessings of being a child of an immigrant who's fled oppression is you understand how fragile liberty is."
With his Cuban heritage, he's seen as a Republican who could put a dent in the Democrats' Latino voting bloc. He's also considered a potential front runner in 2016, something he rules out.
"I just was sworn in a few days ago. At this point, I haven't even found the restroom," he said. "So I am very much focused on doing this job right before me."
At least for now.