If Sen. Ted Cruz is the de facto Speaker of the House, then Sen. Jeff Sessions is his Majority Whip. Cruz led the movement to tank House leadership's bill to address the border crisis, but sources on the hill said it was Sessions' very public opposition that convinced them their constituents wouldn't be happy with "amnesty."
Operation Screw Boehner was Cruz's creation, and he's rightly received most of the blame. The Los Angeles Times noted that "behind the scenes, it was Cruz ... who appeared to be pulling the strings."Jonathan Chait at Daily Intelligencer wrote, "Ted Cruz met with the core group of House Republicans who vote against every bill and explained to them that since this is a bill, they should vote against it."
But despite Ted Cruz's rallying of the troops earlier this week, several Republicans said it was actually long time Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions who convinced them to kill Boehner's bill. Sources close to Cruz told The Washington Examiner that he met with Sessions Thursday morning. After that meeting Sessions convinced the rest of the Alabama House delegation (6 out of 7 are Republicans) to vote against the bill.
“If you think this had more to do with Sessions than Cruz, I could say absolutely, there’s no doubt about it,” a congressional aide told The Examiner. Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers said Sessions was "very" influential and added that it would be hard to explain to the folks back home why they voted for a border bill Sessions didn't like.
Sessions has been making a lot of noise about the border bill. His statement against the bill was covered by several conservative news sites, including the Drudge Report, Breitbart and the National Review. "That the House leaders’ border package includes no language on executive actions is surrender to a lawless President," he wrote. A senior G.O.P. aide told The Examiner even that may have helped sway votes, because "members read Drudge, and folks back home read Drudge in droves ... Sen. Sessions’ statement on the House bill may not have been right, but it got read, and that can drive votes around here.”
All this isn't to say that Cruz is innocent. Cruz met with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday to convince them not to vote for the bill. After Cruz appeared on a Tea Party webinar, patriots started calling their congress members. But instead of blaming the failure of the House's too-conservative-for-everyone-left-of-Ted-Cruz on one man, we should remember that the House's embarrassing ineptitude was a team effort.