Updated Oct. 15, 11:58 a.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.
The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.
Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Justin Amash of Michigan, Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.
The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans. And, it seems, leadership unwittingly became aware of the meetup.
While the dinner meeting was held in a private basement room, the group was spotted by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was dining with some other members, including Gregg Harper, R-Miss. McCarthy is a regular at the Capitol Hill restaurant, and a source said he seemed particularly interested in what the group was up to.
While the emerging deal to reopen the government and hike the debt ceiling increase may have been a hot topic, it was not immediately clear what the group actually discussed. But the fact that such a group met with Cruz at all could give House GOP leaders even more heartburn as they consider what to do if the Senate passes the measure.
The deal that is materializing in the Senate is one that Cruz and his House compatriots are unlikely to endorse. But it appears to be one that can pass both chambers with bipartisan support.
Of course, Cruz and his allies in the Senate could decide to attempt a filibuster of the deal, but doing so would likely push any Senate vote on final passage past the Thursday deadline to raise the debt ceiling. That would mean Cruz and his allies would bear the brunt of any political consequences that might come from a default, including a potential dramatic downturn in the stock market and/or the world economy. Conversely, allowing the deal to move through the Senate without a fight could cost Cruz his pugnacious conservative credentials.
But from the genesis of the fight to link government funding to defunding Obamacare, Cruz has primarily tried to keep the pressure on, and the fight in, the House.
Correction 11:58 a.m.
An earlier version of this report stated that Mark Meadows of North Carolina, Steve Southerland II of Florida, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas were at the basement meeting. All three confirmed being at Tortilla Coast Monday night, but deny being part of the basement meeting.
Abby Livingston contributed to this report.