Ted Cruz keeps thwarting John Boehner's best-laid plans

The Texas senator is taking thinly veiled shots at the political strategy of the speaker of the House

By Elias Isquith

Published February 11, 2014 3:08PM (EST)

The last time John Boehner took Ted Cruz's advice, the result was a government shutdown that sent the GOP's approval rating to its lowest recorded levels ever while gaining Republicans essentially nothing in return.

But if you think that disaster has made Cruz less likely to poke his nose into House Republicans' business, then you don't know Ted Cruz.

As a report from Roll Call describes, Cruz has continued to meddle in John Boehner's affairs. And while the Tea Party favorite is no longer calling on Boehner to demand the repeal of Obamacare, he remains wedded to two of the GOP's most damaging positions: Opposition to immigration reform, and refusal to lift the debt ceiling without accompanying spending cuts.

After Boehner revealed the House GOP's immigration reform "principles," for example, Cruz and his staff immediately responded by criticizing the push for reform and warning of dreaded "amnesty."

"Anyone pushing that right now should go ahead and put a Harry Reid for majority leader bumper sticker on the back of their car," Cruz said, repeating a favorite line of his. Not long thereafter, Boehner started backtracking on reform (his excuse: Republicans can't trust President Obama).

On the debt ceiling, too, Cruz has offered some unsolicited advice. Boehner and House GOP leadership, who by and large never supported October's government shutdown to begin with, are hoping to pass a lift of the debt ceiling with as little drama as possible. But comments from Cruz indicate he disagrees.

"We’ll have to wait and see the details," Cruz said on Monday, referring to the House's plan to lift the debt ceiling. "But if you ask anybody outside of Washington, D.C., should we raise the debt ceiling yet again, while doing nothing to address the out-of-control spending in Washington, the virtually unanimous answer from Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians — from everybody out of Washington, D.C. — is of course not."

"... President Obama is asking Congress to give him a blank check; to allow him to keep maxing out the credit card without doing anything to fix the problem," Cruz continued. "I think that’s irresponsible. I hope the House doesn’t go down that road."

More from Roll Call:

Cruz made similar comments a week ago, prompting several Boehner allies to dismiss his criticism of and advice for House leadership.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said it’s ironic Cruz is giving advice to House Republicans now, given his ill-fated push to defund the Affordable Care Act.

“Listening to him about leadership is folly,” Simpson said.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., said Cruz should play a more constructive role rather than taking on other Republicans.

“In terms of the debt limit, we have to be realistic that we don’t want to default on our debt,” Kinzinger said. “We also don’t have the Senate.

“Maybe Ted Cruz should spend a little time trying to win the Senate instead of attacking his fellow Republicans,” he said. “I thought that Ted Cruzwas past [that], but maybe he isn’t.”

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., said Cruz has an easier job serving in the minority. “But the majority comes with it the responsibility to govern and that’s what we are trying to do in the House,” he said.

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias IsquithFOLLOW eliasisquithLIKE Elias Isquith