Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) seemingly delights in the pain of his fellow Republicans. Recognized as the “architect” of the partial government shut down last year, Cruz took to the Senate floor this past week to insist on a sixty vote super-majority in order to advance the bill raising the government debt ceiling. This went completely against the strategy of the Senate Republican leadership who all intended to oppose the bill, allowing Senate Democrats to advance the bill on their votes alone, while Republicans could claim to be the voice of “fiscal responsibility.”
Cruz’s tactic forced several Republicans to join with the Democrats in order to reach the sixty vote limit and advance the bill to a final vote. This was particularly painful for some in the Republican leadership such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who faces significant primary challenges this coming year. All twelve Republicans who joined the Democrats on the procedural vote eventually voted against the bill upon its final passage, but the “damage” had already been done.
Cruz’s strategy is even more curious because he had to know that he would be unable to prevent the passage of a bill raising the debt ceiling. The bill had already passed the Republican controlled House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner brought the bill to the House floor “clean,” with no additions or amendments. Such a concession indicated that the Republican leadership was not going to battle on this issue again as they had in the past year. Nevertheless, Ted Cruz seems to delight in the pain of his fellow Republicans.
The divide between Cruz and his fellow Republicans may indicate a difference in goals. The GOP has its eyes set on winning the six seats they would require in 2014 to take control of the Senate. This would essentially cement a “lame duck” status for President Barack Obama in his final two years in office as a Congress fully controlled by Republicans would be able to prevent passage of any of Obama’s legislative initiatives. Furthermore, it could force Obama into making controversial vetoes to prevent the Republicans from undoing some of his past accomplishments, notably the Affordable Care Act.
Ted Cruz is obviously also opposed to Obama’s agenda, but based on his legislative tactics, his goals may be more personal. The Senate is a very traditional institution. There are many “rules,” both written and unwritten that dictate how business is to be done there. Cruz openly flaunts these rules and cares little for offending his party leadership. This may be due to the fact that he has little intension of serving in the Senate for long. Cruz ran in 2012 promising to “shake up” the Senate, and he has certainly done so. This all may serve as a prelude to a potential Cruz candidacy for president in 2016.
The question can be asked regarding what Cruz hopes to accomplish by being so antagonistic, especially to fellow Republicans. He may not be concerned about Senate committee assignments or campaign contributions, as revoking these is a typical “punishment” for senators who oppose the leadership. McConnell, John McCain and others remain highly influential within the party, however. They could potentially hamstring Cruz’s future candidacy by mobilizing other segments of the party against him. This sort of “in fighting” was a significant factor in the Republicans being unable to secure the Senate in either 2010 or 2012, and with Chris Christie fighting his own battles, the GOP is also lacking in “top tier” presidential candidates as well.
Cruz obviously has a strategy in mind. It could be something as simple as having a true belief that the government is overspending and a willingness to do whatever it takes to attempt to reign in that spending. Regardless of what his final goal may be, Ted Cruz seemingly takes delight in the pain of his fellow Republicans.
Editorial by Christopher V. Spencer