Just a couple of weeks ago, when it looked like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expected his shutdown scheme to fail, House Republicans were livid. One House GOP leadership aide declared, "Wendy Davis has more balls than Ted Cruz."
The fissure didn't last. After Cruz launched a 21-hour speech for no particular reason, and condemned his Senate Republican colleagues for failing to follow his lead, House Republicans swooned -- to the point that House GOP lawmakers are now following Cruz's orders, even when he tells them to ignore their own Speaker.
But what about Cruz's standing with his Senate colleagues? They could be better.
Ted Cruz faced a barrage of hostile questions Wednesday from angry GOP senators, who lashed the Texas tea party freshman for helping prompt a government shutdown crisis without a strategy to end it.
At a closed-door lunch meeting in the Senate's Mansfield Room, Republican after Republican pressed Cruz to explain how he would propose to end the bitter budget impasse with Democrats, according to senators who attended the meeting. A defensive Cruz had no clear plan to force an end to the shutdown -- or explain how he would defund Obamacare, as he has demanded all along, sources said.
"It was very evident to everyone in the room that Cruz doesn't have a strategy -- he never had a strategy, and could never answer a question about what the end-game was," a Republican senator who attended the meeting told Politico. "I just wish the 35 House members that have bought the snake oil that was sold could witness what was witnessed today at lunch."
The New York Times had some additional details this morning, noting that Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) "assailed" Cruz at the caucus meeting. Ayotte was "especially furious," waving materials from the Senate Conservatives Fund, a right-wing outfit closely aligned with Cruz, which has gone after Republican senators who balked at the Texan's inept plan.
Ayotte asked Cruz to disavow the group's attacks on his Republican colleagues. He refused.
Can't you just feel the love?
Of course, Cruz's amazing ability to alienate just about everyone who comes in contact with him, while entertaining, isn't really the point of the story. Rather, there are two broader angles to keep in mind.
First, as the government shutdown continues, Republican lawmakers apparently have no idea what they're doing, and the far-right policymakers responsible for creating this fiasco have no strategy at all -- beyond just waiting for Democrats to agree to take health care benefits away from millions of Americans.
Second, Senate Republicans aren't just mad at Cruz because they think he's a jerk; they're also worried about the electoral effects of his damaging plan. Karen Tumulty and Paul Kane reported:
Party veterans say they are increasingly concerned that a prolonged standoff in Washington could damage their prospects for winning back the Senate in 2014.
"You can see that in the different reaction of Senate Republicans" compared with their House counterparts, a prominent GOP pollster said. [...]
GOP senators -- with a few notable exceptions, including and led by Ted Cruz (Tex.) -- have been far more skeptical about the political wisdom of the shutdown engineered by House Republicans. And now that it is underway, the party is looking for ways to distance its Senate candidates from the ensuing mess.
I have a hunch this may be tougher than it sounds. When GOP senators return home, and hear from angry constituents, they'll be hard pressed to argue, "No, no, you're thinking of House Republicans, not Senate Republicans. What's that? You want to know how often I've voted against the House GOP bills? I'm afraid that's all the time we have this afternoon...."
Also note, there are quite a few notable House Republicans who want to be promoted to the Senate next year -- Arkansas' Tom Cotton, West Virginia's Shelley Moore Capito, Louisiana's Bill Cassidy, a trio of Georgia Republicans -- each of whom share the responsibility for this dumb, unnecessary shutdown. Do you think this debacle will come up during the campaign? I have a hunch it will.