As the Senate prepared to vote yesterday on a key procedural measure on trade, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) made an announcement. Though he’d recently voted for Trade Promotion Authority – better known as “fast track” – the Texas Republican had changed his mind, and explained himself in a piece for a right-wing website.
Cruz argued, in a piece circulated to reporters by Heritage Action, that congressional Republican leaders in both chambers struck a secret deal with Democrats to renew the Export-Import Bank and tied the policy to trade bill. There’s no proof of any of this – Cruz’s piece didn’t include any – and GOP leaders denied the claims.
But as Roll Call noted, the senator was just getting started.
[Cruz] went after Boehner for punishing conservatives, “wrongly stripping Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., of his subcommittee chairmanship, and reportedly threatening to strip other conservatives of their chairmanships as well.”If that wasn’t direct enough, Cruz had a couple of questions: “Why does Republican Leadership always give in to the Democrats? Why does Leadership always disregard the promises made to the conservative grassroots?”
He added later in the day, “I think it was wrong for the Speaker to punish a conservative for voting his conscience.” [For more on this story, see our report from yesterday.]
Cruz has repeatedly partnered with House Republicans – the senator has teamed up with the lower chamber so often that he’s earned the “Speaker Cruz” nickname – but this was an unusually brash shot across the House GOP’s leadership’s bow.
It was also a curious move. Cruz’s enthusiastic “fast track” support was supposed to be an opportunity for him to prove his interest in actual policymaking. But just as TPA was poised to pass, the Texan ran to Breitbart to thumb his nose at his ostensible Capitol Hill allies.
Roll Call added that after his announcement, “senior GOP aides were practically lining up Tuesday to offer anonymous quotes bashing Cruz.”
One said, “If Cruz is so concerned about his poll numbers, maybe he should spend more time campaigning and less time meddling in the House to avoid these desperate ‘I was for it, before I was against it’ ploys.”
So what’s the end-game here? Cruz’s poll support enjoyed a brief boost shortly after his presidential campaign kickoff, but his backing has faded and he remains nowhere near the top tier. Presumably, the far-right senator is looking for new ways to connect with the GOP base.
The strategy that he’s settled on appears to focus on criticizing his party’s congressional leadership and championing rank-and-file Republican members – whose endorsements Cruz would no doubt welcome.
The plan, in other words, is for Cruz to run for president as the candidate most disliked by his own party’s top officials.