Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) met privately with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday to urge them to ignore their own leadership and oppose their party’s border bill. Less than a day later, House GOP leaders were forced to pull their preferred legislation – too many of House Speaker John Boehner’s members were listening to Cruz, not him.
When no one seemed sure what the House majority would do next, Democratic lawmakers were heard joking with reporters that they should ask Cruz, since he seems to be in control of the lower chamber.
Robert Costa had a fascinating report overnight on the behind-the-scenes efforts, including details from the Wednesday night meeting in Cruz’s office, though the far-right Texan apparently doesn’t want to be held responsible for his handiwork.
In an interview, Cruz said that he did not dictate what the members should do, but only reaffirmed his position against Boehner’s plan.“The suggestion by some that House members are unable to stand up and fight for their own conservative principles is offensive and belittling to House conservatives,” Cruz said. “They know what they believe and it would be absurd for anyone to try to tell them what to think.”
And yet, by all appearances, Cruz guided their hand, telling House Republicans that “Boehner was distracted and … they should stick to their principles.” The senator “also reminded them to be skeptical of promises from House leaders, particularly of ‘show votes’ – legislative action designed to placate conservatives that carry little, if any, weight.”
For a guy who doesn’t try to tell Republicans what to think, Cruz seems eager to offer, shall we say, suggestions.
I don’t think the political world fully appreciates just how regularly the Texas Republican intervenes in the affairs of the House chamber.
The list we’ve been updating keeps getting longer. Last September, for example, Boehner presented a plan to avoid a government shutdown. Cruz met directly with House Republicans, urged them to ignore their own leader’s plan, and GOP House members followed his advice. A month later, Cruz held another meeting with House Republicans, this time in a private room at a Capitol Hill restaurant.
This year, in April, the Texas senator again gathered House Republicans, this time for a private meeting in his office. In June, less than an hour after House Republicans elected a new leadership team, Cruz invited House Republicans to join him for “an evening of discussion and fellowship.”
Last week, Cruz and House Republicans met to plot strategy on the border bill. This week, they huddled once more.
The Texas Republican doesn’t seem to get along with other senators, but he spends an inordinate amount of time huddling with House Republicans who actually seem to listen to his advice.
As for the senator’s motivations, Danny Vinik had a good piece arguing that Cruz’s principal goal seems to be doing the right thing for Ted Cruz.
He was the architect of the “defund Obamacare” movement last year that ended in a politically toxic government shutdown and eventual Republican capitulation. In February, Cruz forced some of his Republican colleagues to take a politically-damaging vote to raise the debt ceiling. In all of these situations, Cruz has been focused on his own political future, staking out a position as far to the right as he can. He didn’t care that his antics damaged the party. They were good for Ted Cruz – and that’s what mattered.That’s what happened again on Thursday with the House GOP’s bill to address the border crisis. And it’s going to continue happening in the future….