Originally posted on July 8, this diary is being updated in the light of Sen Ted Cruz being the cause of the fiasco in the House on the last scheduled day before the Summer break. That he was the catalyst is undisputed by pundits; had he not interfered in House business, they may well have passed their original border bill and gone home at the appointed time.
It relates to the ongoing feud between the tea party and establishment factions within the GOP which can be likened to spot fires which threaten to fuse into one unconfined, uncontrollable wild fire. Fanning the flames at every opportunity is Senator Ted Cruz.
He first came to public prominence when identified as being at the core of the maelstrom that was the government shutdown of 2013. His part in that disastrous PR stunt made him a tea party hero but put him at odds with the Republican establishment, particularly Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.
Without any understanding of Cruz's extreme psychopathy, they thought to tame him by appointing him vice chair of the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee). That was short-lived. Cruz objected to the NRSC's involvement in primaries (ie, they backed establishment candidates against tea party opponents) and effectively boycotted his own committee. They’d like to get rid of him but he refuses to resign. When setting up the NRSC no-one considered this eventuality, so there's some confusion as to how they would get rid of him and if they can afford the noise this would cause if they did.
That's Cruz in a nutshell; he's not just an irritant, he's a menace. It shouldn't be a problem – after all, he's a freshman senator and just one person but the establishment's reaction to this menace is to allow themselves to be menaced by him.
His strongest ally is Heritage Action which acts like a dictatorial headmaster in scoring all Congressional Republican members. Like an opportunistic charter school, Heritage Action is in it for profit, not for the good of education or, in this case: for profit, not for the good of we the people. Their star pupil is Ted Cruz.
While Cruz's antagonistic attitude is well-known, his actions are unpredictable and often take the establishment by surprise. Therein lies the power of this menace, this singular freshman senator, over the long-term establishment. They've never seen anyone quite like him. In their experience, freshman fall into line fairly quickly and are easily controlled by the leadership (‘leadership’ here meaning anyone who has two terms or more under their political beltway). But not Cruz. Nor does he confine himself to the Senate chambers – in fact his greatest power is in the House.
From Business Insider:
Within the Senate, Cruz is essentially irrelevant. Any... deal that comes out of there will be struck between majority Democrats and a number of more practically-minded RepublicansIt certainly isn't welcomed by Speaker John Boehner nor by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (nor by his successor, Kevin McCarthy as it turns out) whose carefully-laid, crucial plans have been scuttled by Cruz on more than one occasion.
The only way he can exercise power is as an interloper in House Republican business — and his presence there is not wholeheartedly welcomed.
As Salon reports:
“Cruzification” is what happens when the House Republican leadership is prepared to make a relatively realistic opening offer to counter a Senate Democratic proposal, but then Sen. Ted Cruz (you guessed it!) perambulates over to the House side and demands that conservatives there rise up in defiance. Conference support for the opening offer collapses, the leadership is forced to introduce a more right-wing version, and stalemate endures.This is how one freshman senator has been able to sabotage key legislation – and he's just getting started. What are failures for Congress are personal victories for Cruz and his already bloated sense of self-importance and power just increases with each success. His latest efforts have focused on immigration reform and the border crisis.
The most famous example of Cruzification came during the shutdown debate last September. John Boehner and Eric Cantor were prepared to introduce a continuing resolution to fund the government through December. It included a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, but was structured in a way that would have allowed Senate Democrats to strip that provision, pass the rest of the bill, and send it to the White House. Ted Cruz and his emissaries warned House conservatives of the ploy, support collapsed, and the bill was pulled. After that, Boehner was forced to go along with conservatives' plan to hold a firm defund-Obamacare line, and a government shutdown ensued.
From SFGate, Feb 12, 2014:
House Republicans who supported the “principles” of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as “amnesty”, spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.But it was enough to scatter the House Republican vote. Faced with considerably depleted numbers on their side, Cantor and Boehner reluctantly folded.
Privately, some Republicans decried Cruz's indirect intervention in House deliberations with what they viewed as ill-timed remarks that provoked the telephone calling barrage.
This was the public face to a very serious, down and dirty fight going on behind the scenes. The whole immigration issue wasn't just pitting the tea party caucus against the establishment faction, it was also setting the Chamber of Commerce against Heritage Action. As HA's champion, Cruz's ploy to divide and conquer not only effectively buried immigration reform for the foreseeable future but also dealt a huge blow to the Chamber of Commerce which supports Boehner and McConnell.
On the border crisis, The Washington Post reported:
In the House, Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), who led the House GOP's working group tasked with tackling the issue, shared her team's recommendations during the weekly closed-door meeting of House Republicans. On her way into that meeting, Granger said a vote on her proposals "should happen right now".The Hill takes up the story:
An hour before Granger addressed her colleagues, Cruz spoke at a meeting of the Conservative Opportunity Society at the invitation of the group's chairman, Rep. Steve King -(R-Iowa), a prominent critic of bipartisan efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
"He’s a perfect catalyst and he has a real rapport with conservatives in the House," King said in an interview. "He really wanted to hear from people in the room. He also let us know that anything we send to the Senate, if it comes back, it’s going to be terrible, so we should make sure we’re ready to respond to that."
Republicans who huddled with Cruz agree with him.Cruz has set himself up as their preacher. In his Senate office, he holds regular “fellowship” meetings punctuated with group-singing of “Kumbaya”. It isn't hard to imagine the effect of this on his theocracy-obsessed followers.
"He can’t see any way we can initiate legislation in the House that won’t come back to bite us, that will actually end up with worse results," said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
"He basically said he couldn’t see how us passing something is going to do anything but create a Trojan horse," said Fleming. "He doesn’t trust [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.]".
The latest of these congregational get-togethers was held on Wednesday night, July 30, the day before the House was set to vote on the border bill crafted by the Republican leadership. In a report following his interview with Cruz for The Washington Post, Robert Costa wrote:
Defending his recent meetings with House Republicans, Cruz insisted that he was seeking fellowship with conservatives, rather than whipping against House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).By Thursday morning, July 31, the previous day’s majority of votes had evaporated and pandemonium broke out on the House floor. The Washington Post’s Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe reported:
"For many months, I've been periodically hosting gatherings with House members to discuss issues and challenges of the day and our gathering last night was scheduled several weeks ago."
When asked whether he ever encouraged his allies to vote against Boehner’s border plan on Wednesday night, when he hosted more than a dozen House Republicans in his office, Cruz said he simply reaffirmed his position and listened closely to the concerns of his guests as they mulled how to proceed.
House Republican leaders were ambushed by another conservative insurrection on Thursday, forced to scrap a pivotal vote on a border security bill and scramble to find a solution amid a familiar whirlwind of acrimony and finger-pointing.Significantly, the only occurrence of note between an orderly Wednesday House session and pandemonium the following morning was that meeting in Cruz's office and it didn't go unnoticed by House colleagues. As Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe noted:
...[M]any Republicans were furious with Bachmann and others who held talks with Cruz, including at a closed meeting Wednesday in his Senate office.No doubt Heritage Action was foremost of these groups. It wasn't named in the article but it's impossible to believe they weren't there to encourage their favorite Senator and putative tea party leader.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), an ally of Boehner and McCarthy, criticized those lawmakers and outside organizations that rallied opposition.
"Any time the groups come out and start to score these issues, then senators get involved and have secret meetings and sing ‘Kumbaya’ and stop the process," Nunes said.
That the fiasco Cruz incited had a powerful effect on new majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, was evident when McCarthy gave the rejected border bill to Reps Steve King and Michele Bachmann to rewrite overnight. These two are Cruz’s chief acolytes so it's significant that McCarthy chose them. They’d certainly never been singled out like this before. According to Costa:
Bachmann ...said that the leadership's willingness to engage with the House’s conservative flank on Thursday night at that private gathering at the Capitol was startling and appreciated—a moment she said that stands out as the rare occasion when the House leadership took direct cues from her and King.King added that writing the alternate bill "was like I ordered it off the menu". That would, of course, be Ted Cruz's menu.
Cruz is a first class scam artist and he's selling his snake-oil to tea partiers who can't get enough of it. Cruz knows this and takes advantage of them. He conned them yet again and how.
The bill his acolytes produced is a travesty but on Friday House Republicans passed it anyway because, in their manic eagerness to pass something, they were willing to pass anything to get out of there and home. Even the Wall Street Journal produced a scathing op-ed which labeled House Republicans the "Deportation Caucus" and opined:
A party whose preoccupation is deporting children is going to alienate many conservatives, never mind minority voters.But Cruz isn't interested in the midterms. What is important to his plans are the votes he can manipulate in the House. How he does this is no mystery. His is a forceful personality, far stronger and more devious than those of his followers. It's distinctly ironic too that the fear-mongering, distortion and disinformation that they sell wholesale to their base also work so effectively on them when wielded by Cruz. They've swallowed their own propaganda whole and are now victims of the same. Pure speculation but I have wondered too how many of them have had private meetings with Cruz in which he's promised them the VP position when – that would be Cruz's word – he wins the Republican presidential primary. It's not beyond possibility and would be a potent aphrodisiac to the ambitious.
Readers may recall that the last Republican in an election year to support deporting immigrant children brought here through no fault of their own was Mitt Romney. A splendid voter attraction that was.
How far will he go? As far as he wants to it seems since no-one has been able to rein him in. That alone should terrify the establishment GOP because Cruz has never forgiven them for surrendering the government shutdown position before the default deadline. He wants that showdown.
He isn't talking up impeachment because that's not his objective. He's aiming for economic meltdown and though he hasn't the power of numbers to force that cataclysmic outcome, he's proven he has the power to persuade and intimidate. He certainly has Kevin McCarthy’s number and that bodes ill for Congress.
Cruz isn't up for re-election this year so he has nothing to lose in forcing another government shutdown. At his back is the powerful Heritage Action which has indicated a particular desire to cull the old establishment from the GOP. To think that Cruz might be concerned how his actions could affect the Republican Party in the midterms is to underestimate his egomania. Cruz is in it for Cruz.
If he succeeds in precipitating another government shutdown this October, then it will likely result in devastation for the GOP in November. With that, the Cruz-ifiction of Republicans in Congress will be complete.