Ted Cruz has been in Washington for less than a year. His refusal to observe Senate protocol to first sit back and learn, as a freshman is expected to do, has rubbed some of his more senior colleagues the wrong way. He is considered to be inappropriately loud and opinionated – often making statements that are very offensive toward both Democrats and Republicans. He says he was not elected to the Senate to stay quiet. And his on Tuesday, he took that edict to the Senate floor to prove to his base that he wants to defund Obamacare, saying he would speak "until I am no longer able to stand."
In upping the ante, Cruz’s latest battle to disrupt Obamacare is tied to funding the government in the new fiscal year that starts on October 1. His refusal to give up the fight – which many say could be the GOP’s undoing in the 2014 election – has rankled many of his fellow Republicans, widening divisions in a splintered party.
"I find it amusing that those in Washington are puzzled when someone actually does what they said they would do," Cruz told CNN in February. "At the end of the day, I was elected to represent 26 million Texans and to speak the truth. You know, I think a lot of Americans are tired of politicians in Washington in both parties who play games."
Yet that is just what Cruz is doing – playing games – and taking it to the nth degree.
Cruz was elected by promising to shrink government – especially the new health care law. Although that battle has been embraced by most Republicans in Congress, Cruz’s latest tactic has frustrated many of them. New York Rep. Peter King has been an outspoken critic of Cruz' latest crusade – at one point calling him a "fraud."
"Whether it's Custer, whether it's kamikaze, or whether it's Gallipolli or whatever, we are going to lose this," the New York Republican said on CNN's "The Situation Room" last week. Republicans are frustrated by his insistence at fighting a divisive, losing battle. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee tweeted that he "didn't go to Harvard or Princeton" but that he "can count" that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the Senate, referring to the fact that Cruz, in studying for his law degree, would only study with Princeton, Yale, or Harvard college grads.
"We are giving Obama the escape out," Republican strategist Ana Navarro said on CNN's 'AC360.' "Instead of now focusing on the problems with Obamacare, everybody's focused on the civil war in the Republican party." Navarro also noted that the numerous polls, including CNN's latest poll, that while the public is concerned with Obamacare, they don't support shutting down the government over it.
"If you want to fix Obamacare or repeal it or fix it or change it, the best way to do it is to elect more Republicans. And the political cost of a government shutdown is really going to affect any – any possibility of electing more Republicans," Navarro added.
"This week he is blithely putting the lawmakers in his party between a rock and a hard place. If they fail to match the anti-Obamacare passion that he flexed anew in a Senate speech Monday, they'll land on the far right's watch list. But if they match it and the government shuts down, there's a good chance that the Republican Party takes the blame..."
"While many others have, no doubt, come to the Senate in the past as a springboard to the presidency, it's hard to recall someone who has created as much controversy within his own party," said CNN political analyst Gloria Borger. Is this about his principles or about presidential aspirations? In questioning Cruz’s motives, Republicans think he is putting his political career above all else.
Cruz’s "filibuster" will not do anything to block Obamacare funding. There is a key procedural vote on the issue scheduled for noon today,Wednesday, that will put an end to Cruz’s "stand in the schoolhouse door." Cruz knows this, but he said his speech was to simply "make D.C. listen." Hardly anyone is listening, though, not even FOX News. They spoke about it for a minute while showing a quick video of Cruz’s filibuster in the background, but there was no sound.
Cruz could alienate his colleagues to a point where he becomes marginalized and completely ineffective in Washington. He has risked being relegated to some of the lowlier Senate committees where his bloviating will do less harm. If he has no support of the Republican Party, he risks being cut off from its resources and financing. The presidential nomination he wants will become his dream only – and that of a small extreme rightwing contingency.