For two days John McCain and Ted Cruz have been fighting on the Senate floor over the rules for negotiating a budget, but, like so many fights, it's also about so much more. Cruz is being annoying about the budget, but worse, he just doesn't get the Senate.
Republicans criticized Senate Democrats for years for not passing a budget, but now that they have, some Republicans are preventing the senators from negotiating with House Republicans to pass a budget in conference committee. But on Tuesday, Cruz, as well as Rand Paul, wanted to block the conference committee, because it might compromise. "This fight right now is the fight over the debt ceiling, because what it would mean if we go to a conference committee is that as sure as night follows day, we would find ourselves in a month or two with a debt ceiling increase coming back ... with no conditions whatsoever," Cruz said, as The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery reports. McCain said that was ridiculous. "So we don't trust the majority party on the other side of the [Capitol] to come to conference and not hold to the fiscal discipline that we want to see happen? Isn't that a little bit bizarre?" McCain said. Susan Collins agreed.
On Wednesday, Cruz had a retort. He said of McCain:
"The senior senator from Arizona urged this body to trust the Republicans... Let me be clear, I don’t trust the Republicans. I don’t trust the Democrats and I think a whole lot of Americans likewise don’t trust the Republicans or the Democrats because it is leadership in both parties that has got us into this mess."
But this isn't just about budget negotiations. There is bipartisan agreement that Cruz doesn't follow the norms of the Senate. He's rude, he doesn't respect his elders, he's "Jim DeMint without the charm," an anonymous Republican senator told The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus. Earlier this month, Cruz recently had a spat with Harry Reid, in which Reid called him "the very junior senator from Texas." Cruz kept saying he was "Reserving the right to object," and Reid responded, "there is no such thing, OK?" Even in the spat over the conference committee, Cruz's fellow senators were not-so-gently suggesting that he doesn't get how the Senate works. "We have called repeatedly for a return to regular order in this body," fellow Republican Susan Collins said on Tuesday. "Well, regular order is going to conference." Democrat Barbara Boxer tried to break it down further, saying that while she thought the House budget was "apocalyptic," and Cruz probably felt the same about the Senate version, "They're going to get into that conference and they're going to work together. That's called democracy."