Ted Cruz's big (awful) plans: Why a clash is coming if GOP wins majority

If Republicans win the Senate, expect a ferocious tactical clash between Cruz and the actual leader Mitch McConnell

By Jim Newell
Published November 3, 2014 5:14PM (EST)
  (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
(Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

No one's more excited about the prospects of a Republican takeover of the Senate than the incoming Senate majority leader, Ted Cruz. He's already been serving as Speaker of the House for two years, and come Tuesday night, he may well have control of both chambers of Congress. Once he's elected President in 2016, he'll be the first man in history to serve concurrently as Speaker of the House, Senate majority leader, and President of the United States. Whenever as the next Supreme Court justice keels over, he'll appoint himself to that, too. This is ultimately the America that America deserves.

You may be asking how a junior Senate backbencher who's not in line to chair any committee will effectively serve as Senate majority leader. He'll do so the same way that, as a junior Senate backbencher, he's effectively served as Speaker of the House the past two years. Through whatever feats of raw political talent and nimble exploitation of congressional process, Cruz positions himself as the go-to vehicle through which all far-right rage is channeled in Washington. He's the front man for the interests of radicalized "outside groups" (well-funded organizations with presences in Washington D.C.) like Heritage Action, the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, Tea Party Patriots, and so forth. Whenever the specter of practical governance -- funding the government, raising the debt ceiling -- sweeps its way into the corridors of the Republican leadership, there materializes Ted Cruz, exorcising the demon. We simply do not care for Texas Senator Ted Cruz here at Salon dot com, but hey, the man fills a space.

Would-be Senate majority leader Ted Cruz has all sorts of big plans for the next Congress, as he tells the Washington Post. He's already positioning himself as the guiding force behind the quixotic "we have to use reconciliation to pass an Obamacare repeal so that Obama can veto it!" strategy gathering momentum on the right:

Republicans should “pursue every means possible to repeal Obamacare,” Cruz said, including forcing a vote through parliamentary procedures that would get around a possible filibuster by Democrats. If that leads to a veto by Obama, Cruz said, Republicans should then vote on provisions of the health law “one at a time.”

Ha ha, "if" that leads to a veto. Who knows?! Maybe President Obama will see the bill on his desk and suddenly be like, "You know what? I sort of hate Obamacare. What the hell, I'm just gonna straight-up sign this repeal, lololol." This stunt will take up some time. Why not just skip to the part here you hold votes on provisions? As far as stunts go, votes on repealing the medical device tax or the individual mandate will at least make for some difficult votes for centrist Senate Democrats. (Though we're going to guess that "one at a time" will stop well short of repeal votes on, say, provisions guaranteeing coverage for those with preexisting conditions, or extending family coverage to children until they're 26, etc.)

In his interview with the Post, Senate majority leader Cruz "made it clear he would push hard for a Republican-led Senate to be as conservative and confron­tational as the Republican-led House." In addition to lots of wasted time voting on repealing Obamacare, this also means lots of wasted time holding circus-like "oversight" hearings against the Lawless Obama Administration.

Piggybacking on what House leaders have done, Cruz said the first order of business should be a series of hearings on President Obama, “looking at the abuse of power, the executive abuse, the regulatory abuse, the lawlessness that sadly has pervaded this administration.”

So there's your Republican Senate majority if Ted Cruz gets his way, and he tends to get his way: many, many stunt votes against the administration. Compromising on an issue or two? Nope. Just pure combat. And coincidentally occurring adjacent to a presumed Ted Cruz presidential campaign. Go figure.

The Ted Cruz vision of a pointless attack-dog Republican Senate majority is not going to make life fun for the official would-be Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. The 2016 Senate battleground map is going to be the inverse of 2014's, with Republicans defending seats in states like Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In a presidential-cycle electorate, at that. Republicans in those states are going to want to at least be perceived as pursuing some sort of bipartisan legislation. Infrastructure or tax reform or some such. And McConnell will want to keep his Senate majority, so he'll try to help them. Seeking a totally mindless, House-GOP-style posture of hostility towards the administration and the Democratic party may sound delightful to Texas senators who aren't even up for reelection in the next cycle, but not for those senators at the margin who are up for reelection.

This will be the clash within the Republican Senate majority that will come to the forefront the instant Republicans clinch a Senate majority. If that happens, of course. It may not! It probably will though? But it may not! Thing is, though...

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2014 Elections 2016 Elections Congress Editor's Picks Gop Mitch Mcconnell Republicans Senate Ted Cruz The Right