Following up on an earlier item, House Republicans are still weighing their options when it comes to a possible government shutdown next week, but as the process unfolds, there will be quite a few meetings behind closed doors.
Take this one, for example, scheduled for this morning.
A cadre of the House’s most conservative members will meet Wednesday morning at the Capitol Hill Club for Rep. Steve King’s regular breakfast to discuss lame duck legislation. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who often serves as a de facto spokesperson for congressional hardliners, is expected to attend.
It’s worth pausing to appreciate just what a combustible mix Ted Cruz and far-right House Republicans can be. They tend to gather quite often, and the results are rarely pretty.
In early September, with a shutdown deadline looming, President Obama was preparing executive actions on immigration. Cruz huddled with his House GOP allies to strategize. As it turned out, no plot was necessary – Obama delayed his immigration announcement until after the elections – but the fact that the Texas senator was ready to hatch a scheme with House Republicans was a reminder about the role he plays on Capitol Hill.
Indeed, I’m amazed by just how much time Cruz spends with his House counterparts – almost as if he were the Shadow Speaker of the House.
To recap our coverage from the fall, Cruz met privately with a group of House Republicans in late July 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.
It’s part of a growing pattern. In September 2013, 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, in October 2013, 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.”
In July, as Congress prepared for some 11th-hour legislating before their month-long break, Cruz and House Republicans met to plot strategy, and a week later, 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.
To be sure, there’s nothing unethical or untoward about this; it’s just extremely unusual. There’s no modern precedent for a senator to repeatedly meet with House members, urging them to pay no attention to their own party’s leadership in their own chamber.
For that matter, given recent history, the fact that Cruz will be joining GOP House members this morning suggests the likelihood of a shutdown is slightly greater than it might otherwise be.