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Texas Republicans: Cruz, Cornyn, Stockman Discord Disrupts Weekly Confab

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Cruz frequently clashes with Cornyn the No. 2 Senate Republican, and it’s unclear at this point how rocky their relationship is.

Rep. Kevin Brady said he knows Cruz tries his best to attend and noted that House members had a good amount of dialogue with Cornyn. “So that’s just sort of how it’s working these days,” he said.

Just how well the relationship between Cornyn and Cruz is working these days is unclear.

The freshman has frequently jousted with Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate.

During the government shutdown, it was Cruz leading the charge against reopening the government unless Obamacare was defunded, and it was Cornyn voting for cloture to end Cruz’s filibuster. And during the most recent debt limit hike, it was Cruz forcing a vote on the issue, despite the wishes of GOP leadership, and it was Cornyn switching his vote to “aye” to ensure the debt limit would be raised — in the midst of the primary challenge from Stockman.

The week after the Texas primary — where Cornyn fended off Stockman to practically guarantee re-election — Cornyn and Cruz stopped holding a weekly constituent coffee together, opting for separate sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That may be more of a scheduling decision than a declaration of war, but the optics alone speak to the up-and-down relationship that exists between the senators.

But the tumult in the Cruz-Cornyn relationship is nowhere close to the turbulence in the Cornyn-Stockman pas de deux.

Stockman Syndrome

The always-amusing, often-bewildering Stockman ran a quixotic primary challenge against Cornyn this year — and the campaign came as a shock to most of the Texas delegation.

“Surprised me, that’s all I can say,” Rep. John Carter told CQ Roll Call. “Totally came at me out of the dark.”

And no one in the delegation endorsed Stockman.

“To my knowledge, we all backed Cornyn,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway. “I’m not aware of anybody that said Steve was the right guy for the job.”

Pressed for more information, Conaway said, “He’s the newest guy here,” and was content to leave it at that.

But even if Stockman’s gadfly primary challenge didn’t have their blessing, and even if losing the bid meant he would be leaving Congress, Texas Republicans refused to condemn their friend from Friendswood, a Houston-area suburb.

“We embrace Steve,” Rep. Kenny Marchant said. “We didn’t — I don’t think anybody in the group thought [running against Cornyn] was the right thing to do.”

That ambivalence was why Stockman abstained from the Thursday lunches during the campaign.

“Yeah, I thought it was the best thing to do,” Stockman told CQ Roll Call. “I don’t want to make them feel uncomfortable.”

Nor did he ask for any endorsements.

“And I don’t think John asked for any endorsements either,” Stockman said, “because that was an unusual situation.”

Also unusual was Stockman’s campaign strategy. He slammed Cornyn on Twitter, ceaselessly trying to make #LiberalJohnCornyn a thing, but he also seemed to disappear at times — from the campaign trail and from the House floor for votes.

Still, those who know the congressman insist there’s more to him than the caricature implied by his firebrand Twitter account, @SteveWorks4You.

Spend 15 minutes with Stockman and you can see why his fellow Texans embrace him and why people are drawn to his personable, self-deprecating humor.

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