IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The de facto House leader who isn't in the House

The frequency with which Ted Cruz huddles with House Republicans is getting a little weird.
Ted Cruz walks to participate in a cloture vote, Feb. 12, 2014.
Ted Cruz walks to participate in a cloture vote, Feb. 12, 2014.
As a rule, members of Congress stick to their own chamber. As we discussed several weeks ago, Republican leaders from the House and Senate will occasionally meet to work out bicameral strategies, but in general, rank-and-file members tend to stick with colleagues from their side of Capitol Hill.
But there's one big exception: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who doesn't seem to get along with other senators, but who spends an inordinate amount of time huddling with House Republicans.
Last September, for example, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) 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."
This week, it happened once again.

Sen. Ted Cruz once again met with a group of the House's most conservative lawmakers Wednesday morning to discuss potential legislative responses to the flood of children crossing the border. Cruz met with "more than 20″ House Republicans Wednesday morning, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to discuss a supplemental package meant to address the influx of unaccompanied minors at the border. "I didn't have a hard count, but I know that it was more than 20," King said. According to the Iowa Republican, lawmakers had breakfast and listened to Cruz's take on the crisis.

We're approaching the point at which Cruz is quietly becoming a de facto member of the House Republican leadership, despite not actually being in the House.
As for why Cruz huddled with House Republicans quite so regularly, I suspect this goes further than the senator looking for someone to talk to, and not being able to make friends with other senators.
Rather, I suspect the far-right Texan believes House GOP leaders aren't extreme enough for him. Cruz likely fears that Boehner & Co. might agree to compromises on various issues, but they won't be able to approve any deals without the votes of the Republicans' far-right, rank-and-file House members.
So, Cruz keeps reaching out to them, hoping they'll listen to him, not their Speaker.
And in this case, it's working -- House GOP leaders hoped to pass a measure to address the humanitarian crisis at the border before the August recess, but thanks in large part to House Republicans' intransigence, failure now appears likely.
Just as Ted Cruz hoped.