Yesterday, the House of Representatives finally passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after weeks of House Republicans holding departmental funding hostage in a desperate attempt to defund President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Though Republicans had emphasized that they felt it was so important that the U.S. continue tearing apart families through deportation that they were willing to put national security at risk, when Democrats called their bluff, they ultimately chose to re-authorize funding for DHS.
Most people lauded the news that Republicans had finally agreed to see reason, but one person (predictably) upset was Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Last night, he told reporters how he thought the situation should have been handled, and of course, it was full of extreme rhetoric that lacked practical solutions.
“Since December, the outcome has been baked in the cake. It was abundantly clear to anyone watching that leadership in both houses intended to capitulate on the fight against amnesty. It was a strategy doomed to failure. It’s an old adage in Washington: Never take a hostage you’re not prepared to shoot.
…There was no chance, zero, that Republicans were going to fail to fund the Department of Homeland Security because Republicans care deeply about homeland security.”
Cruz expressed his support for continuing to use the mature and reasonable strategy of threatening to shut down government agencies to get what he wants, arguing that Republicans should have held other “less important” agencies hostage to achieve their desired effect. Cruz continued:
“If we had been serious about this fight, and we should have been, the continuing resolution [under which DHS funding expired in February 2015]should have focused on the EPA, or the IRS or the Department of Labor. Now, those are departments which a majority would be prepared to allow funding to temporarily expire in order to use as leverage.”
Got that, Republicans? Next time you want to throw a temper tantrum, follow Ted Cruz’s advice and threaten to shut down something silly like environmental protection or the country’s tax system instead of homeland security.
Of course, Ted Cruz is in the very fortunate position of lacking a leadership role, and therefore any actual responsibility to make these decisions. That means he can continue to spout extreme, obstructionist nonsense without having to face accountability for the consequences. No matter what John Boehner or Mitch McConnell do, Ted Cruz can find a way to frame himself as the smarter man who would have acted more “conservatively” than Republican leadership.
What’s more, Ted Cruz is using his notoriety to push for an outcome that he himself would probably rather avoid. When Republicans followed Cruz’s advice and shut down the government in fall 2013, it turned out to be a bust with largely negative effects for the Republican party. Many GOP colleagues blamed Cruz for the mess, and Cruz was forced to go on the defensive and try to shift blame to Obama. If Republicans shut down part of the government again, it’s possible Ted Cruz would be placed in a similar situation.
However, acting reasonably is not Ted Cruz’s strong suit, so reality is likely not playing a role in the strategies he’s continuing to push. Unfortunately for Texans, that means that our junior Senator will remain focused on helping himself instead of helping his constituents.