On Wednesday, Ted Cruz did something you almost never see in the Senate: He purposefully made political life harder for his Republican colleagues.
By forcing the Senate to round up 60 votes to end debate and force a final vote on a clean increase of the debt ceiling, Cruz knowingly complicated things for the top two Republicans in the chamber -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (Texas). Both men face primary challenges from their ideological right and neither relished the idea of helping break a filibuster for a debt ceiling increase with no Republican proposals attached.
"We're all for holding politicians accountable with votes on substantive issues, but Mr. Cruz knew he couldn't stop a debt increase the House had already passed. He also had no alternative strategy if the bill had failed, other than to shut down the government again, take public attention away from ObamaCare, and make Republicans even more unpopular."
It's not news that Cruz cares little for Senate tradition. He ran in 2012 on his willingness to shake up the institution, and time and again -- most notably during his nearly 24 hour talk-a-thon to protest Obamacare -- he has been willing (and gleefully so) to be a fly in the ointment. But, this latest gambit by Cruz may well be the most telling because it directly impacts two men who, if Cruz had any thought of sticking around the Senate for any extended period of time, not only could, but would make life very uncomfortable for him.
There is nothing that politicians -- and especially Senators -- hate more than being forced into a politically uncomfortable vote by a colleague of the same party. McConnell and Cornyn, both of whom are favorites to win their primaries, will never forget Cruz's move this past week. And, Cruz is plenty smart enough to realize that.
Cruz, ultimately, wants to be president. And, he may well seize his high profile and his status as a hero among the tea party to run in 2016. (If he runs, he is either in or very close to the top tier of candidates.) If Cruz doesn't win (or doesn't run), he won't be up for re-election until 2o18. He may well run for a second term but if he decides at some point between now and then -- or even after he is re-elected -- to go the Jim DeMint route and simply walk away from the Senate, don't be surprised.
Cruz won't be climbing the leadership ladder. Ever.