Ted Cruz Seeks New Friends, But is Still Content to Shut Down the Government

Ted Cruz is back in Cruz-ian form. Mostly.
Ted Cruz is back in Cruz-ian form. Mostly.
Photo by Gage Skidmore

In the aftermath of his failed run for the the Republican presidential nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz has gone back to doing what he does best — or at least most often. Being the opposition. 

Specifically, Cruz is intent on blocking President Barack Obama's plan to transfer United States authority over an intergovernmental (possibly intergalactic) entity that governs the Internet on October 1.

How so? By shutting down the federal government, of course.

Again.

That's right, the bomb thrower is back in force and he's gone with a classic gambit for his first post-presidential political effort.

Congress needs to pass a short-term spending bill by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown, but Cruz has rallied his fellow conservatives to oppose the measure unless the government backs away from ending its oversight of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Cruz insists the move will give countries like Russia and Iran more control over the Internet. He and the other Republicans are pushing to attach a requirement that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration not use any of the appropriations funding to help end American involvement with Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers . 

Much like the infamous antics that got Cruz blamed for the 2013 shutdown, in this setup if the two sides remain at an impasse then voila, nothing gets funded and the federal government stops all but the most basic activities. 

It makes sense that Cruz would go back to his old tricks. After all, his surprisingly sincere-sounding refusal to endorse Trump did not play well with his main constituency. The Trump Republicans booed him while the old school GOP faction that Cruz previously alienated started sharpening their knives the second Cruz's miscalculation showed him to be vulnerable, as we've previously reported.

However, there are some key differences this time around. Cruz got grudging support from his party back in 2013, but with this effort he has actual, well, support. GOP senators like Charles Grassley, a high-ranking member from Iowa, are backing Cruz's efforts and the party leadership has been pushing hard to get the measure attached to the spending bill, the Washington Post reports. 

It's probably not a coincidence that all of this support has come as Cruz has started being more of a Republican team player.

But maybe he's realized a senator who is down in public opinion polls in his own state and who is known to have few reliable allies in the Senate isn't likely to be in the upper chamber for long. Recently Cruz has shifted away from his loner stance, and is actually making some moves to try and get along with members of his party. He met with GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence this week even though he's sticking to his guns about not endorsing Trump.

Still, this time around Cruz is apparently trying to help his Republican colleagues. On Tuesday he handed over a $100,000 donation to the National Republican Senatorial Committee to aid incumbent GOP senators, according to Politico.

(However, it's worth noting this may not have been as generous as it seemed. Back in 2014 Cruz kicked in $250,000 to help re-elect incumbent senators. Plus, Politico pointed out Cruz made the donation shortly after he was asked about his lack of giving, but Cruz's camp insists he always planned on sharing his campaign funds to help keep the Senate in Republican hands. Still, Cruz did get an actual thank you from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.) 

He's also making an effort to do more direct fundraising. Cruz and fellow Texas Sen. John Cornyn aren't exactly buddies, as we've recently noted, but the two are teaming up next month to do some fundraising in Houston and Dallas for embattled senators. Even Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri — the senator who called Cruz's 2013 push to shut down the federal government unless Affordable Care Act was defunded "the dumbest idea I've ever heard" — will get an injection of cash in his campaign coffers, Roll Call notes.

It's hard to tell if this marks a sincere shift in Cruz's approach to politicking, but it's certainly an interesting aberration from his usual shark-like modus operandi. Maybe Cruz felt the sting of having made enemies of the party leadership and the lack of support from the Senate when he was running for president. Or perhaps the fact he'll need Senate support when he runs for re-election in 2018, possibly followed by another White House run in 2020, has finally sunk in.

Either way, Cruz is back to work in the Senate. Let's hope this time includes more Dr. Seuss-centric filibusters in addition to the usual government shutdown dog-and-pony tricks. 


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