House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) unexpected retirement announcement shook up Capitol Hill in an extraordinary way last week, but there’s still some housekeeping to do. In fact, current funding for the federal government expires tomorrow, and though a shutdown now appears unlikely, the Republican-led Congress must pass a stop-gap spending bill before the deadline.
The Senate took a key step last night in that direction, advancing a temporary measure – a “continuing resolution,” or “CR” – on a 77 to 19 vote. All 19 were conservative Republicans, though most GOP senators sided with their leadership and backed the bipartisan solution.
The Senate will move to final approval of the bill today, leaving the House about a day and a half to pass the same measure. Boehner knows that many of his members oppose the bipartisan package, but he’s moving forward anyway, relying on Democratic votes to prevent a shutdown.
But as the process unfolds, let’s not overlook just how entertaining last night’s developments on the Senate floor were. As Politico reported, it’s reached the point at which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) “can’t even get a protest vote in the Senate anymore.”
On Monday night, Cruz’s colleagues ignored his attempt to disrupt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s efforts to fund the government without attacking Planned Parenthood. In an unusual rebuke, even fellow Republicans denied him a “sufficient second” that would have allowed him a roll call vote.Then, his Republican colleagues loudly bellowed “no” when Cruz sought a voice vote, a second repudiation that showed how little support Cruz has….
Not long after the right-wing Texan reached Capitol Hill, one thing became clear: most of the Senate’s members found it hard to respect Ted Cruz. But last night, it also became clear that even Republicans just don’t like the guy.
I’m reluctant to get too deep into the weeds of Senate procedure, but under normal circumstances, if a member requests a roll call vote, even on an amendment, those requests are honored just as a matter of course. Last night, however, Senate Republicans simply shut down Cruz’s requests, swatting him away like an annoying fly.
In theory, this is the sort of thing that might hurt the Texan’s presidential campaign, but in practice, Cruz will exploit it to his benefit. It may seem counter-intuitive, but Cruz boasts to GOP audiences about the fact that his colleagues – the elected senators who’ve worked alongside him for the last two-and-a-half years – consider him a ridiculous figure.
This, in his mind, is proof that he’s an anti-establishment renegade, “shaking things up” in Washington.
Indeed, Cruz very likely expected to get shot down on the Senate floor last night, but he engaged in his usual antics anyway precisely so he can report back to far-right voters about his head-to-head combat with squishy inside-the-Beltway pragmatists.
Cruz also spent some time yesterday blasting Speaker Boehner for not stepping down immediately. It’s the sort of thing that will make many Republicans on the Hill fume, which is very likely the point.