Ted Cruz may be loved by the Tea Party, but he is absolutely loathed by most of his fellow Republicans senators, including most of the really far-right ones. On Friday night, he demonstrated why by once again engaging in a Quixotic floor fight that allowed him to posture as taking a tough stand while actually hurting his party’s position in every substantive way.
Cruz, along with Utah Sen. Mike Lee, took to the floor Friday night to demand Republicans stop President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration and scuttled a bipartisan agreement to push back votes until Monday, effectively forcing the Senate to return for a rare weekend session and cast a marathon series of procedural votes.
Senior Republicans say there’s a problem with Cruz’s strategy: The GOP lacks the votes to stop Obama on immigration now, the $1.1 trillion spending package was speeding to passage, and they won’t resort to shutting down the government to mount their objections. Plus, the weekend session could allow Obama to get even more of his nominees confirmed.
So while Cruz and Lee argue they’re taking a hard stand against Obama, the result might allow Democrats to end the year with more of their priorities advanced — and the two conservatives getting nothing.
“I think this is ridiculous,” Ayotte said in an interview.
The fiasco has turned many of Cruz’s colleagues openly against him, a dynamic that might bolster his cred with the tea party wing of the party if he makes a run for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016, but could also leave him vulnerable to attacks that he’s more troublemaker than leader — able to shutdown the government or stall votes — but unable to advance a proactive agenda.
On Saturday, GOP senator after GOP senator teed off on Cruz, arguing that his strategy had blindsided the caucus, forced them to return to Washington and even strengthened Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s ability to exploit the Senate rules and push through 24 of Obama’s stalled nominees. Several senators had to abruptly change plans, including Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who had to cancel his official trip to Iraq and Turkey this weekend.
On the floor, angry GOP senators pressed Cruz over whether he was fundraising off of his tactics, sources said, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins ripped him in a private conversation. Several Republicans were discussing whether to mount a protest vote against Cruz: Unite in opposition to his point-of-order challenging the constitutionality of the spending bill’s funding of Obama’s immigration move.
And 20 Republicans, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, ultimately opposed the Texas Republican. Cruz and Lee won the backing of 22 GOP senators total, including potential 2016 rivals Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The frustration was abundantly clear in the hallways of the Capitol. Asked if he thought the Cruz-Lee plan was effective, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said: “The answer is no.”
“I don’t see how conservative ends are achieved,” said Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a fiscal hardliner. “I think it’s counterproductive. Some of the nominations that we had issues with, like the surgeon general, were not going to move forward. Now they’re going to move forward.”
This is the very essence of the Tea Party temperament: Do something, anything, to show how pure you are in your ideology, even if in reality it actually hurts you both politically and substantively. Compromise is, by definition, betrayal, and any acceptance of the reality of a situation or thinking strategically is treason. Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it.