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Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Featured, Politics | 2 comments

Cruz works to undermine Boehner

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

Bill Day, Cagle Cartoons

And now we see another first: a Senator actively working to undermine the Speaker of the House who is from his own party. The Senator: Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who clearly seems determined to put himself on the fast track to the 2016 Republican nomination by wooing and winning over Tea Partiers, conservative talk show types and conservative new media writers — and primary voters. And there are already signs he’s doing just that.

But this is unprecedented. Senators don’t usually go over and try to actively work to undermine the leadership of their own party in the House. But it’s clear now to many — including, increasingly, to many non-Tea Party Republicans — that to Cruz the ends justify the means:

On a Thursday conference call, a group of House conservatives consulted with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas about how to respond to the leadership’s fiscal strategy. Sources who were on the call say Cruz strongly advised them to oppose it, and hours later, Speaker John Boehner’s plan fizzled.

It’s the latest example of Cruz leading the House’s right flank.

The private call came together after Boehner unveiled his strategy at a Republican conference meeting earlier this week. Boehner’s plan — to focus on a debt-limit package, rather than a drawn-out CR battle — made many conservatives uneasy. As they mulled a response, they reached out to Cruz.

On the call, Cruz told them that Boehner was making a mistake, and urged his friends to fight until the end on the CR. The group agreed, and they complained that Boehner’s shift to the debt limit was a diversion. Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined Cruz on the call, and both senators said they’d stand with House conservatives as they opposed the leadership.

By the call’s end, there was a consensus: until the CR talks are complete, Republicans should whip “no” on Boehner’s debt-limit plan, as a way of preventing the leadership from directing the strategy. And that’s exactly what happened late Thursday afternoon: GOP whip Kevin McCarthy worked the floor, but couldn’t find the votes for Boehner’s debt-limit plan. After McCarthy reported back about the Cruz-inspired uprising, the leadership shelved it.

Later Thursday, Cruz met again with House conservatives at a venue near the Capitol. According to one House member, the bicameral bloc talked deep into the night about the CR and pressuring Boehner. At the top of the agenda: making a one-year delay of Obamacare a requirement for government funding, and to accept nothing less, should the defunding effort unravel. They fear Boehner is resistant to making that an ultimatum, and they discussed ways to force his hand.

This National Review piece notes (no surprise here) that the House leadership is stunned.

Meanwhile, Cruz is now indeed on the fast track to the nomination — if he wants to go that route (as is evident he does). A new poll says that a political star —and perceived Republican leader — has been born:

PPP’s newest national poll finds Ted Cruz is now the top choice of Republican primary voters to be their candidate for President in 2016. He leads the way with 20% to 17% for Rand Paul, 14% for Chris Christie, 11% for Jeb Bush, 10% each for Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, 4% for Bobby Jindal, and 3% each for Rick Santorum and Scott Walker.

Cruz has gained 8 points since our last national 2016 poll in July while everyone else has more or less stayed in place. He’s made himself the face of a government shutdown over Obamacare, and the Republican base supports that by a 64/20 margin. It’s not surprising that Republicans identifying as ‘very conservative’ support a shutdown 75/10, but even the moderate wing of the party supports it by a 46/36 margin.

Cruz is leading the GOP field based especially on his appeal to ‘very conservative’ primary voters, who he gets 34% with t0 17% for Rand Paul and 12% for Paul Ryan. Voters who fall into that ideological group make up the largest portion of the Republican electorate at 39%. With moderates Cruz gets only 4% with Christie leading at 34% to 12% for Jeb Bush and 10% for Marco Rubio, but they only account for 18% of GOP voters and thus aren’t all that relevant to Cruz’s prospects for winning a Republican nomination.

Our numbers also suggest that Cruz is now viewed more broadly as the leader of the Republican Party. When asked whether they trust Cruz or GOP leader Mitch McConnell more, Cruz wins out 49/13. When it comes to who’s more trusted between Cruz and Speaker John Boehner, Cruz has a 51/20 advantage. And when it comes to Cruz and 2008 GOP nominee and Senate colleague John McCain, Cruz wins out 52/31. He now has more credibility with the GOP base than the folks who have been leading the party for years.

Unless something changes, it appears more than ever that the Republican Party’s establishment is on the descent, and Cruz — and his allies the Tea Party, Talk Show Political Culture, conservative new media, and former Gov. Sarah Palin — are on the ascent in terms of forcing a party direction.

The problem is: Cruz is not expanding the party’s tent. It’s all mobilizing and talking to the choir.

And alienating some others — including some Republicans.

Some other reaction:
John Amato:

I’m sure John Boehner is furious right now. I don’t feel bad for him since republicans voted to put these nuts in office, but if tea party wackos do shut down the government then America is in for a world of hurt. And no matter how much damage they do, republicans will still vote them into local offices to gunk up the works for the rest of us.

I don’t remember a Senator being involved with the House like this in a long time

-Doug Mataconis:

So there you have it, someone who has been in the Senate less than a year is working with Tea Party Members of Congress in the House to stab the Speaker, who’s been around since the 1980s, and the rest of the House GOP leadership, who have been around for a decade or more themselves, in the back. All in the name of ideological purity and, of course, enhancing the image of Ted Cruz and others among the GOP base. What they are trying to do isn’t really a serious policy proposal any more than the “defund” plan was a serious possibility. The Senate is never going to agree to it and neither is the Presidents. Indeed, one could say the same thing about the “wish list” of items that the leadership wants to attach to a debt ceiling increase, but at least in that case they aren’t essentially willing a government shutdown to happen on Monday night by insisting that it be tied to the Continuing Resolution. Additionally, one gets the sense that the Leadership knows that they aren’t going to get 100% of what they’re asking for, but it would at last be a start in negotiations with the Senate and the President (and, yes, despite what the President is saying there will be negotiations just like their were negotiations during the Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43 years). The Tea Party crowd, though, gives no indication of being willing to negotiate at all. For them, it’s all or nothing, even if that means shutting the government down for who knows how long starting at Midnight Tuesday.

One thing that strikes me about this, though, is the old adage that if you’re going to go after the King, you’d better taken him out the first time. If Cruz and the Tea Party crowd in the House fail in this effort, and it’s likely that they will, then they’re going to find themselves out on a ledge all alone.

Hot Air’s Allahpundit:

They didn’t poll Paul versus McConnell and Boehner, but with Paul backing McConnell for reelection in Kentucky, he’s not as well positioned as Cruz to be a grassroots figurehead against the leadership. But wait — if Cruz is vacuuming up conservative voters, how is Paul right behind him among Republican voters overall? Look again above and you’ll see that he’s increased his share of two other GOP demographics, the “somewhat conservative” and the “somewhat liberal,” where he’s gained 14 points. Maybe that’s the product of a small subsample, but it wouldn’t surprise me if him speaking out against mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders lately has made an impression on socially liberal GOPers. If you had to guess how libertarian-leaning Republicans would identify themselves, “somewhat conservative” and “somewhat liberal” would be your guesses. So just as Cruz’s brand is starting to sharpen up, so is Paul’s. And then you’ve got Chris Christie in the middle, increasing his take of “moderates” by 10 points since July. That would be a nifty primary in 2016 — the centrist, the “true conservative,” and the heterodox libertarian, head to head to head. Seems less unlikely by the day.

–Ed Kilgore:

This is some genuine intrigue involving a massive breach of congressional etiquette by Cruz. And it’s also just weird: House and Senate members rarely deal with each other directly. They inhabit different realms that do not usually intersect.

But any way you slice it, it looks bad for the House leadership…

….Something tells me Cruz doesn’t mind that at all. Such intraparty outlaw behavior is yet another thing he has in common with his look-alike bullyboy predecessor from back in the day, Joe McCarthy.