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Posted by on Jul 29, 2015 in 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Featured, Politics | 11 comments

Putting a Senate bully in his place

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NOTE: This is a replacement column for Eugene Robinson. Due to a technical matter it is under his byline on the main page.

Putting a Senate bully in his place
by Dana Milbank
Washington Post Writers Group Columnist

WASHINGTON — Who’s afraid of big, bad Ted Cruz?

Not Lamar Alexander. The Tennessee Republican went on the Senate floor to accuse his fellow Republican of proposing actions that would “render ourselves lawless” and cause “chaos.” Alexander reminded the Texan that the Senate “requires restraint and goodwill.”

Not John Cornyn. The senior senator from Texas said that Cruz’s prescription would be a “terrible mistake” and that if his fellow Texas Republican were making a valid point, “you would find other voices joining that of the junior senator, but I hear no one.”

And certainly not Orrin Hatch. The Utah Republican and Senate president pro tempore said on the Senate floor, in remarks prompted by Cruz, that “squabbling and sanctimony” won’t be tolerated.

“The Senate floor has too often become a forum for partisan messaging,” the veteran legislator inveighed. “It has been misused as a tool to advance personal ambitions, a venue to promote political campaigns and even a vehicle to enhance fundraising efforts” — all of which Cruz has done. “Most egregiously, Mr. President, the Senate floor has even become a place where senators have singled out colleagues by name to attack them in personal terms.”

Finally, Senate Republicans are standing up to the bully who terrorized them the past two and a half years — and they’re finding out he isn’t so tough after all. After Cruz on the Senate floor Friday called his fellow Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a liar, his GOP colleagues have moved swiftly to shut down his antics. They voted in large numbers to renew the Export-Import Bank (McConnell’s scheduling of the vote, opposed by Cruz, is what prompted Cruz to accuse McConnell of lying) and they thwarted Cruz and his sidekick, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, on poison-pill amendments to the highway bill that would have jettisoned Senate rules in order to defund Planned Parenthood, scuttle the Iran nuclear deal and repeal Obamacare.

In a particular humiliation of Cruz, he was unable to get a “sufficient second” for a vote on his Iran amendment Sunday, persuading just three senators — well short of the 20 percent he needed. Such seconds are routinely granted as a courtesy, and longtime Congress watchers couldn’t recall a similar rebuke by senators of a colleague.

McConnell called a meeting of all GOP senators Monday night at which each senator was given an intercepted copy of an email from Lee’s office encouraging outside conservative groups to pressure rank-and-file senators to oppose Republican Senate leaders. Lee apologized, blaming a staffer, and surrendered without a fight in his quest for an Obamacare-repeal amendment to the highway bill.

This could be a turning point for Republicans, if they come to the conclusion that Cruz and his ilk are paper tigers. Cruz has found scant support on the presidential primary trail; polling under 6 percent, he’s in a tie for seventh place and is registering less than a third the support Donald Trump has and less than half that of Jeb Bush.

In a broader sense, Republican senators seem to be growing in confidence that they can defy what remains of the tea party and affiliated conservative groups such as Heritage Action and Club for Growth. Not a single Republican senator was defeated in a primary last year, and none but McCain so far faces a real challenge next year.

Any celebration should be restrained, because the House remains in the grips of Cruz-like conservatives.

McConnell seemed uncharacteristically cheerful as he opened the Senate on Tuesday morning. He smiled at a page. He smiled at Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. He shared a smile and a chuckle with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

“The Senate continues to move closer and closer to passage of a bipartisan multiyear highway bill,” McConnell said.

Minutes later, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a reliable conservative, went to the floor to move up the vote on the bill. “I’m going to make an appeal for whoever is trying to string this thing out to shorten the time so we can have the vote,” he said, in an obvious reference to Cruz. “Now, whether the individuals have placed themselves in the corner where that’s not going to happen, I don’t know.”

The bully has indeed been cornered, and from here he doesn’t look so menacing.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank. (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

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Copyright 2015 The Moderate Voice
  • willwright

    I hope he’s right and hope the voters in Texas make him a one term-er although with Texans I suspect his antics play well.

    • SteveK

      … although with Texans I suspect his antics play well.

      Texans in Cruz’s district anyhow.

      There are some thoughtful, well meaning Texans that are just as frustrated with Cruz’s antics as we are.

      • willwright

        You are right Steve, there are plenty of people in Texas that are as repulsed by this McCarthy wannabe as we are. Let’s hope they can send him back to Texas.

        • Do you think maybe they sent him to Congress to get him out of their hair?

          • willwright

            Ha, good one.

      • Slamfu

        As a Senator, isn’t his district the entire state? 🙂

        • SteveK

          Ooops… Got me there and YES his district IS the entire state. Which increases Texas’s odd’s for correcting this mistake.

          Thanks Slamfu.

          Edit to add: My point re: thoughtful, well meaning Texans still holds. ?

  • dduck12

    Cruz was cruisin” for bruisin’ and I’m glad he got it. This McCarthy look-a-like makes my skin crawl.

  • This is an encouraging step in a conflict within the GOP. The trend within the party has been not to restrain the more radical elements in either house. As a result they went increasingly further with the extreme rhetoric and trashing Congressional traditions that had been observed by both parties for decades. Big picture was to push the party ever further right.

    Now, at least in this instance, it seems there are some limits imposed by party elder statesmen preventing the party from being completely given over to partisan nihilism. Let’s hope this spreads to the House.

    • Rambie

      They probably got the OK to ignore the Tea Party from the Koch’s. It was them that basically funded the TP’ers and have probably figured they’ve profited off the crazy crowd.

  • IndyGuy

    It’s about time the GOP leadership knock down this incredibly narcissistic curmudgeon! He’s embarrassed the leadership and overstepped his bounds. He’ll never learn and perhaps his roll in the Senate will be diminished with his nonstop whining and trying to go rogue on leadership.

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