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The combustible mix of Ted Cruz and the House GOP

Strange things happen when the far-right Texas senator and House Republicans huddle for private meetings. Take yesterday, for example.
Ted Cruz walks to participate in a cloture vote, Feb. 12, 2014.
Ted Cruz walks to participate in a cloture vote, Feb. 12, 2014.
Congress will have to act fairly soon to approve a new stopgap spending measure, called a "continuing resolution," to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month. Leaders in both parties and both chambers seem fairly optimistic -- especially now that President Obama has postponed an announcement on immigration executive actions -- that an ugly fight can be avoided.
But as we learned during the Republican shutdown last fall, congressional leaders don't always get what they want.

Sen. Ted Cruz again met with a small group of House Republicans late Tuesday night, this time to discuss over pizza a conservative strategy on the continuing resolution. While many of the Cruz meetings have seemed to lack a specific agenda or resolution, members trickled out of Tuesday's nearly two-hour meeting repeating a similar refrain: We want a new expiration date on the CR.

The House GOP leadership seems to have adopted a let's-not-screw-this-up-again strategy. They'll advance a "clean" spending measure that will keep the government open through mid-December, then act again during the lame-duck session that will follow the midterm elections. No muss, no fuss.
Cruz isn't sure he likes that plan. The far-right Texan, for example, yesterday suggested members use "any and all means necessary" to prevent President Obama from using his executive powers to further address immigration policy. In the context of the continuing resolution, that presumably means Cruz would like to see measures added to the spending bill to tie the president's hands -- and if those measures aren't there, then the spending bill should be blocked, regardless of the consequences.
The senator and his allies also have concerns about the length of the CR and a possible extension of the Export-Import Bank.
Whether their concerns have the traction necessary to shut down the government again is another matter entirely.
The fact remains that most House Republicans appear eager to spend as little time as possible on Capitol Hill before the elections. The goal, in general, is to keep the government's lights on and get back to the campaign trail. Luckily for the GOP, most voters no longer seem to remember last year's ridiculous shutdown, and so long as Republicans don't do it again, they probably won't face any real consequences for their actions at all.
And so when Cruz interjects to argue that he and his far-right cohorts should do it again, it's a tough sell for the Texas Republican.
Still, strange things happen when Cruz and House Republicans huddle for private meetings.
As we discussed earlier in the summer, 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. 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.”
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.
This time, though, the odds are against Cruz's success. Will the House GOP majority really move towards a government shutdown -- two months before Election Day -- in the hopes of blocking executive actions on immigration that haven't even been introduced? The fact that Cruz and his allies would consider such a tactic is itself remarkable, but he's nevertheless likely to lose this round.