Senator Bob Corker fought with Ted Cruz on the Senate on Thursday afternoon — at one point Corker called him "confused" — giving us an in-person confrontation to cap off months of increasingly angry criticism of Cruz from his fellow Republicans.
Cruz has pushed for Republicans to threaten to shutdown the government unless President Obama agrees to defund Obamacare, and then faux-filibustered the defunding bill in order to keep Democrats from adding funding back in. Many Republicans were critical of both of these things. With Cruz present on the Senate floor on Thursday, Corker criticized him, and questioned the real reason for his crusade.
"It's my understanding again, relative to this vote tonight happening tomorrow instead, is that my two colleagues, who I respect, have sent out e-mails around the world and turned this into a show possibly, and, therefore, they want people around the world to watch maybe them and others on the Senate floor...
I’m just asking the question, is it more important to the senator from Texas and the senator from Utah that the people around the country watch this vote, or is it more important that we have a good policy outcome from our standpoint?"
Corker mocked Cruz for his 21-hour filibuster, which he followed by voting to begin debating the thing he was trying to stop. He said the House was ready to vote on a government funding bill. In a body that prides itself on a tradition of collegiality and formality, this was a big deal, and it garnered a lot of attention on Twitter,
But in his short Senate career — he only took office nine months ago! — Cruz has not made a lot of friends. In fact, in recent weeks, many of colleagues and allies have gone on the record to denounce him. So have fellow Republicans in the House, and Republican strategists, and conservative editorial pages. An anonymous GOP aide summed up the party's take on him last week, telling The Huffington Post:
"Some people came here to govern and make things better for their constituents. Ted Cruz came here to throw bombs and fundraise off of attacks on fellow Republicans. He's a joke, plain and simple."
As far back as February the haters were laying it on thick behind closed doors. "[He's] Jim DeMint without the charm," one Republican senator told The Washington Post. Meanwhile, his relationship with fellow Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn is "frosty." This probably has something to do with the fact that he refused to endorse Cornyn's re-election bid.
In response to his no-named haters, Cruz simply said "I'm always impressed by the courage of anonymous congressional aides." But many of the best put downs have come from established members of his own party. Here are some Republican senators who have publicly expressed frustration with Ted Cruz, some of whom express it more politely than others:
New York Rep. Peter King
King is quickly cementing his place as the foremost hater of all things Ted Cruz, among both Democrats and Republicans. On MSNBC's Morning Joe on Thursday morning he said that, with Obamacare crusade, Cruz had "tapped into a dark strain in the American political psyche." During the interview he also chastised Cruz for not caring about or conferring with the Senate. "I don’t think it is possible to heal tensions with Ted Cruz. Hopefully we can heal tensions with some of his supporters. The reason I say that is that he seems intent on doing whatever he has to do without regard to either the party or, quite frankly, to the Senate. So I think what we have to do is reach out to his people and let them know that they are following a false leader here."
And "false leader" isn't even the worst thing he's called Cruz in the last seven days. "It is just a form of governmental terrorism," King told The New York Times on Tuesday of Cruz's Obamacare strategy. Last week on CNN King also accused Cruz of committing a "fraud against the American people" for arguing that his government shutdown brinksmanship might actually work. "We as House Republicans should stop letting Ted Cruz set our agenda for us. If he can deliver on this fine. If he can't, then he should keep quiet from now on and we shouldn't listen to him," he said. "Either put up or shut up."
Sen. Ron Johnson
Johnson's also part of the "this isn't going to work, guys" camp. In The New York Times on Wednesday, he more or less said it was time to pack up and go home on this one. "This is not a situation where you dig your heels in and Obamacare gets defunded," the Wisconsin Republican said. "I think people are willing to hope that’s true. I wish it were true. Trust me, I hope Senator Cruz’s oratory convinces five Democratic senators to vote with us. I just don’t think that’s going to happen." Johnson went on to say that Cruz and others are misleading voters into thinking they can defund healthcare. "They just want anybody who offers them a path, whether it’s realistic or not," he said.
Sen. Bob Corker
Thursday's fight isn't the first time Corker has had snarky words for Cruz. The Texas senator went to Princeton as an undergraduate, and Harvard for law school, so it was pretty obvious who Corker was referring to when he tweeted this:
I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count -- the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position. –BC— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) September 19, 2013
Corker's particular beef with Cruz may stem from all the calls he's getting from his constituents, asking him to support a House bill he already supports. Cruz's constant chatter is confusing America, which isn't doing anyone any good. "Do I think this has been a constructive process? Not particularly," he told The Times on Wednesday.
Sen. Richard Burr
In July, North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr had some equally harsh words for Cruz's plan to shut down the government. "I think it's the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Burr told public radio reporter Todd Zwilich in August. "I think some of these guys need to understand that you shut down the federal government, you better have a specific reason to do it that's achievable."
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch
Of course, some senators are a little more delicate in their reprimands. "We’re getting so late here there really could be a shutdown. That doesn’t help anybody," Hatch told The New York Times on Wednesday.
Sen. Tom Coburn
In the same Times piece, Sen. Tom Coburn was diplomatic. "I love their vigor and their spirit," Coburn said of the Senate's lively new Republicans. "But to be told we’re not listening by somebody who does not listen is disconcerting." Disconcerting. Right.
Sen. Lamar Alexander
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander distanced himself from Cruz's circle. "I’m not in the shut-down-the-government crowd," he said. "I’m in the take-over-the-government crowd."
Sen. Lindsey Graham
Way back in February, when Cruz was even greener than he is now, Graham suggested that he might want to prove himself and not just come in swinging. "[T]he one thing I will say to any new senator — you’re going to be respected if you can throw a punch but you also have to prove you can do a deal," Graham told Politico. In that same piece, an anonymous senator said "It’s becoming a trend when you’re a new arrival,... They don’t get to know the Senate or the other senators; they just start talking. And that takes away from [Cruz’s] ability to be an influential legislator."
Sen. John McCain
On Wednesday, McCain denounced Cruz's references to Nazis in his Obamacare filibuster. "I resoundingly reject that allegation," McCain said on the Senate floor. "That allegation in my view does a great disservice, a great disservice for those brave Americans and those who stood up and said what’s happening in Europe cannot stand."
That's not the first time McCain voiced his displeasure with all things Cruz, or even the first time this week. In Cruz's October GQ profile, one of the McCain's advisers said "He fucking hates Cruz."
But the burn of all burns came in March, when McCain called Cruz, along with freshman senators Rand Paul and Justin Amash, wacko birds in The Huffington Post. When Jon Ward asked him if the three were positive forces for the party he paused and said:
"They were elected, nobody believes that there was a corrupt election, anything else [...] But I also think that when, you know, it's always the wacko birds on right and left that get the media megaphone. I think it can be harmful if there is a belief among the American people that those people are reflective of the views of the majority of Republicans. They're not."
The former member of the Bush administration said Cruz is basically making his plan up as he goes along, and shouldn't be surprised if the GOP pushes back. "Well, this strategy of defunding Obamacare was an ad hoc strategy laid out without consulting with his fellow senators and at every step of the way, it’s been sort of cobbled together on the fly," Rove told The Daily Caller on Tuesday.
Republican presidential strategist David Kochel
Kochel, who advised Mitt Romney in Iowa, argued that Cruz is hurting himself in Washington, where people actually care about results, to appeal to conservatives in Iowa. “He’s hurting himself with the D.C. establishment in order to help himself with the base in Iowa and elsewhere. D.C. is interested in whether something is going to be effective. Conservative caucus activists aren’t concerned about that," he said in a Politico article published today, implying not unfairly that Cruz isn't too concerned with being effective either.
"He looks like it’s all just complete grandstanding to no effect whatsoever except to call attention to himself. It’s not like the Rand Paul filibuster, which actually did affect public policy and start a real conversation," he added.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page
In a Wall Street Journal editorial published Monday — one that agreed with defunding Obamacare — the opinion board skewered Cruz for calling for a government shutdown and then retiring to the wings. The board wrote:
When Mr. Cruz demands that House Republicans "hold firm," he means they should keep trying to defund ObamaCare even if it results in a shutdown that President Obama will blame on Republicans. It's nice of him to volunteer House Republicans for duty. The supposedly intrepid General Cruz can view the battle from the comfort of HQ while the enlisted troops take any casualties.
Photos via C-SPAN, Associated Press.