Most of the talk about Republican gadfly Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in the last few days concerned his role in forcing a delay on passage of the $1.1 trillion spending bill. He was slapped down on his “point of order” by a 74-22 vote, including 20 no votes from Republicans. With the government shutdown avoided for the balance of the fiscal year, the Republicans in 2015 will be able to vote to reverse, de-fund or otherwise try to hobble the president’s immigration order without risking the government’s closure. Hmm, sounds like the best place to be if you are a Republican.

In a scathing op-ed the conservative Washington Examiner editorial board wrote:

Cruz’s and [Sen. Mike] Lee’s parliamentary freelancing gave Reid all he needed to advance the schedule by two full days and guarantee the confirmation of these nominations. In exchange for making Reid’s job easy on ramming the nominations through, all Cruz and Lee got was a symbolic floor vote against Obama’s executive action on immigration. It drew the support of only 22 senators. One reason was that if it had succeeded, their motion would not have prevented Obama’s executive action but, rather, would have killed the underlying omnibus bill and caused a government shutdown. . . . The weekend’s events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.

What is more, those junior officers continually run themselves into a brick wall and give the other side political victories.

Criticism of Cruz usually centers on this type of grandstanding at the expense of colleagues. But he also has a propensity to vote no on every piece of major legislation that involves any compromise for the hard right. Some refer to this as making the perfect the enemy of the good, such as when House Republicans under his spell voted against the “Plan B” to minimize the elimination of part of the Bush tax cuts; the end result was worse for Republicans.

But it also reflects a strange hierarchy of priorities. Consider his no vote, one of 11 senators and only six Republicans, on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He objected to inclusion of a provision critics called a federal land grab. Its defenders argued, “The new lands added to the federal wilderness register are part of a balanced agreement – a land swap that frees up current federal lands for resource development, providing new and needed domestic sources of oil, natural gas, coal, timber and key metals like copper.”

This is the quintessential must-pass legislation that regrettably includes some non-germane items. The Hill explained:

As the House prepares to leave town Thursday night, the bill’s authors made it clear it that this bill was the only chance to pass an NDAA authorization by the end of the year.
“We have to pass this bill,” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said ahead of the vote. “The House is going to go home and there are no ways to make any changes.”
Senators on both sides of the aisle defended the lands use portion, saying the Congressional Budget Office reported it would be deficit neutral. It designates new national parks and wilderness areas and expedites the permit process for oil and gas drilling, among other things.
“That is why the package of lands bills in the National Defense Authorization Act is vitally important to America,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “This compromise is the chance for the Senate to get something done.”
Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees worked for weeks to reach the deal by the end of the year — something every Congress for the last 52 years has done.

And on this Cruz once again voted no. Is his concern for federal lands so great that it trumps national security? That is screwy, to be blunt, and suggests he subordinates the government’s highest priority (national security), including some key items on the war against the Islamic State, to his fetish for fiscal purity. This is why, I suspect, he will never vote on any vehicle to lift the defense sequestration cuts. Gasp — that might require a compromise!

Now perhaps he did not really want the NDAA to fail. (The benefit of being a minority of a minority is that you can make grand gestures because other responsible lawmakers do the right thing.) Perhaps he just wants to keep his gold stars, his “perfect” voting record with libertarian and far-right groups. That’s not exactly a profile in courage, and it is no way to govern. In fact, it is the philosophy of anti-governance, because getting everything one wants and taking no lumps make legislating impossible. Consistently rejecting useful and conservative legislation because of small infirmities is not the behavior of a leader dedicated to accomplishing important things, and it suggests Cruz is grossly unsuited for the Senate, let alone higher office. Imagine if he ran a state — or the country — without super-majorities of Republicans. Things would be worse than they are now. Rigidity of mind and contempt for opponents in a president have resulted in paralysis and nastiness for six years, so why repeat the experience?

And really, if Cruz could find some other way to get attention, get his face on TV and get money out of gullible hard-right voters, don’t we think he’d take it? The Senate is a personal platform for him, not a position to perform well in delivering the best possible results for Texans or Americans at large. Thank goodness voters found out early on that his fixation is with fame and not with tending to the real needs of the country.

The U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill Saturday night that lifted the threat of a government shutdown. Most agencies will now get funding until September of next year. (Reuters)