When their presidential bids failed, senators as liberal as Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and as conservative as Barry Goldwater of Arizona returned to Capitol Hill and had productive — if not legendary — careers.
But Sen. Ted Cruz's new book is the latest indication he has no plan to be a member of such a club if his run for the White House doesn't go as planned. He is running against what he's taken to calling a "Washington cartel."
As to be expected from a senator who has openly sought to undermine GOP leadership, "A Time for Truth" does not pull punches, leading off with anecdotes about one of the more bizarre sequences of events in recent Senate history: the day the clerk's microphone was turned off for a crucial vote on raising the debt limit.
The move was clearly done to allow Republican senators to switch their votes to yes without attracting attention , because a handful of Republicans were needed to get to the magic 60-vote threshold.
Cruz writes that ahead of the vote, Republican leadership sought to have GOP members go along with allowing the debt ceiling increase go through on a simple majority vote, meaning that Republicans could unite in opposition without actually threatening a default. Cruz's decision to object to such a deal made that an impossibility, one he's said was done to force negotiations.
"When I made my case to my colleagues, they looked at me like I was a fool. I heard more than one variation of, 'That's what you say to folks back home. You don't actually do it.' They were convinced they had a brilliant maneuver to raise the debt ceiling without any fingerprints," Cruz writes. "And here was a freshman senator with the temerity to screw it all up."
Later in the volume, he accuses Mitch McConnell of misleading him about the intentions of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (at that point, the Kentucky Republican was still the minority leader). Cruz contends he was told the NRSC would stay out of primaries involving incumbents.
And while Cruz tees off on the tradition of calling colleagues "friends" regardless of actual relationships, when his friends are rivals for the 2016 presidential nomination, the gloves come off as well.
"When you stand on your feet for 21 straight hours in defiance of the president, the Democratic Party, and even many in your own party, you find out who your friends are, who your adversaries are, and who's in between," Cruz writes.
Cruz supported Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster of the nomination of John O. Brennan to be CIA director and praises it in the memoir, but in the book, the Texan also draws a contrast with the way the junior senator from Kentucky acted on the Senate floor during his own stand against funding for the federal government that did not preclude funding the Affordable Care Act.
Just after praising the support for that effort from a list of senators including 2016 rival Marco Rubio of Florida, Cruz takes a decidedly different tack with Paul, putting him in a category with McConnell.
"Another tea party senator was notably less helpful. My friend Rand Paul came to the Senate floor to ask questions that seemed deliberately designed to undermine our efforts. He asked, 'Do you want to shut down the government or would you like to find something to make Obamacare less bad?' And, 'Will you accept a compromise? Will you work with the President?' His questions echoed the skeptical attacks of Mitch McConnell, and I marveled that Rand had decided not to be with us in this fight," Cruz writes. "Mike Lee is not an easily excitable guy, but he was so upset by this that I thought he was going to need a sedative."
Lee, a first-term Utah Republican, is a predictably prevalent character in the book as one of Cruz's key allies and early endorsers, including during the effort the two senators led to use the government funding situation to block funding for Obamacare,ap despite having a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in the Senate in 2013.
Cruz muses briefly about the famous meeting with conservative House members at the Capitol Hill establishment Tortilla Coast during that period.
"That Tortilla Coast meeting has entered D.C. lore, and it's a sign of how dysfunctional Washington is that it was deemed newsworthy that House and Senate members were actually meeting to work together," Cruz writes, highlighting the effort he backed with Lee to move miniature continuing resolutions for individual departments and programs. The House moved ahead on such an approach, but was quickly rebuffed by the Senate.
The coordination between conservatives in the two chambers has only gained more attention since then, with the frequency of efforts to undermine the objectives of Republican leadership. Maybe that's because Cruz, it seems, really believes there was a path to at least put the brakes on Obamacare implementation during that government shutdown, regardless of how much the math may have worked the other way.
"Imagine what would have happened if Republican Senate leadership had simply decided ... let's support House Republicans," Cruz writes in the book. "We may not like it, but let's stand together as Republicans, against the Democrats and against Obamacare."
Whether that's revisionist history or a revision to history may be the eye of the beholder, and that might be what Cruz has in mind.
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