An earlier version of this post said that 27 senators joined Ted Cruz in attempting to block debate on the spending bill. The number was in fact 22. This version has been corrected.
The Senate on Saturday night approved a sweeping $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund most of the federal government through the next fiscal year, turning back a conservative rebellion against President Obama’s immigration policy.
On a vote of 56 to 40, senators passed the spending bill and sent it to Obama, who plans to sign it. The bill’s passage eliminates the threat of a government shutdown and capped days of acrimonious debate on Capitol Hill over the omnibus agreement.
A small group of conservatives, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), had sought to slow debate on the bill by raising concerns with Obama’s immigration policy, forcing a marathon weekend session. The move infuriated their colleagues, particularly Republicans who complained that forcing senators to stay in session produced nothing positive for the GOP and only helped Democrats in their bid to approve a final batch of Obama’s nominees for government posts.
The vote and drama that preceded it were indicative of the upcoming shift in power in the Senate, not only from Democratic to Republican but from cranks on the far right to constructive conservative legislation. Cruz can annoy and grandstand, but he no longer will affect outcomes of legislative fights, and his reputation as a showboating dilettante is cemented.
The notion that he alone would obtain a referendum on the president’s immigration executive action was preposterous. The House has already condemned it and when Congress returns with Republican majorities in both houses, they can vote to reverse it. Cruz surely knows better, but his insatiable appetite for attention and belief that average voter won’t see through his stunts are evident even to casual political observers.
Cruz’s colleagues blamed him for giving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid time to push through an additional batch of nominations, while defenders of the stunt claimed Reid would have gotten the nominations through after the “cromnibus” anyway. As The Post noted, at the very least, Cruz made confirmation of the final nominees easier and less painless for the Democrats. (“If the Senate had voted Monday under the original agreement, Reid would have had to wait until Monday evening to start processing nominees, and Democrats feared that as the holidays drew closer, more of their ranks would have left town before confirming all the nominees. But with Cruz and Lee’s actions, Democrats were able to accelerate the confirmation process and made it far more likely they could approve every contentious nominee that GOP senators had been blocking.”)
Cruz remains the odd man out in the Senate, justifiably hated by his peers. Among those openly disparaging Cruz and his antics were Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Susan Collins (Maine), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and John Cornyn (Tex.).
Cruz likes to say he is “leading”; he seems not to know the difference between leading and preening. A fatuous tweet from a Cruz flack (“GOP [senators] should quit complaining about Cruz and Lee and start working with us to stop amnesty”) was par for the course: dishonest (they all will fight the executive action in the new Senate), self-serving and insulting.
In the new Senate, Cruz can expect less and less indulgence from fellow Republicans. That only 22 senators joined him in his constitutional point of order suggests he is neither feared nor respected. In reminding everyone — in case they forgot the 2013 shutdown — Cruz cannot even get along with members of his own party, he reminds responsible Republicans how ludicrous it would be to put him in the White House. The man who has come to define the dysfunction and nastiness voters loathe about Beltway politicians is going to have quite a tough time convincing voters he is the answer to the strife and incompetence of the Obama years.