How Big Is the Ted Cruz Caucus?
It’s a question that will prove crucial next year when Mitch McConnell takes the reins of a new Senate: Just how big is the Ted Cruz caucus?
Three votes on the “cromnibus” late Saturday night suggest it could be as large as 22 senators — a dangerously high number for McConnell — or as few as a handful.
Let’s break down the three votes — on filibustering the $1.1 trillion package, on Cruz’s point of order aimed at targeting the president’s immigration action , and final passage. The high-water mark for the Texas Republican came on his point of order vote, which 22 Republicans backed. While that represented a thumping, it could also be seen as a show of strength against the McConnell forces. Just 20 Republicans, including McConnell Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas voted against Cruz; three did not vote.
Cruz’s point of order itself basically contended that the underlying bill was unconstitutional because it didn’t block President Barack Obama’s immigration action. Many Republicans, including Cruz, say they oppose the immigration action but don’t think the cromnibus itself is unconstitutional.
On final passage of the cromnibus, 18 Republicans voted no.
But only 12 Republicans joined Cruz in both votes for both his point of order and against the cromnibus. They are: Sens. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, Mike Lee of Utah, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jim Risch of Idaho, Marco Rubio of Florida, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and David Vitter of Louisiana.
Nine others switched to yes on final passage after voting with Cruz to say the bill itself was unconstitutional. They are: Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Roberts of Kansas and John Thune of South Dakota. Johanns is retiring.
Those nine Republicans ended up providing the margin of victory for the underlying cromnibus, which passed 56-40 .
Even that group of a dozen might be overstating Cruz’s hold on the GOP.
An even smaller subset of the Senate Republicans — 11 of them — voted with Cruz against final passage, for his point of order and to filibuster the bill in the first place: Crapo, Lee, Moran, Paul, Portman, Risch, Rubio, Scott, Shelby, Sessions and Vitter.
That’s more than enough to cause McConnell trouble given that he will have 54 Republicans in his camp and will need to get to 60 votes on most bills and likely 51 Republicans to pass a budget resolution.
Notable in the group who consistently voted with Cruz are his potential presidential rivals Paul and Rubio.
It’s also worth noting that Rubio continues his shift to the right after helping write the Senate immigration bill last year.
No Democrats supported the Cruz point of order.
Correction, 11:28 a.m. An earlier version of this post omitted Scott as voting against cloture.
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