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Ted Cruz Learns When to Fold

Ted Cruz says he won't gum up the works in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Ted Cruz says he won't gum up the works in the Senate. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Ted Cruz apparently isn’t up for fighting just for the sake of fighting when it comes to funding the Department of Homeland Security.  

Time and time again, the Texas firebrand has railed against deals struck by Mitch McConnell in recent years — and voted against them — but he hasn’t used all of the considerable procedural tools at his disposal to gum up the works. He’s usually accepted defeat swiftly — often while telling House Republicans to hold the line.  

On Wednesday, Cruz told reporters including The Associated Press’ Erica Werner that he wouldn’t try to delay a final vote on a “clean” DHS bill long sought by the White House and Senate Democrats.  

Cruz’s acquiescence is significant, given the little-understood outside-the-dome reality that the Senate operates largely with unanimous consent. Unless all 100 agree, it’s hard to hold votes in a timely fashion — something that matters with increasing urgency as deadlines approach ever closer.  

Indeed, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told CQ Roll Call that passing the “clean” DHS bill could be a “bumpy” ride, saying the Senate might have to take until Sunday to finish its work unless all 100 senators agree to expedite the votes. That means there could be a short shutdown of the department over the weekend, even if 99 other senators want to act to avoid it.  

Two Republicans — James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama — were the only ones to vote against proceeding to the Homeland Security funding bill Wednesday, starting the first 30-hour clock.  

Sessions has been the most outspoken opponent of the president’s immigration policies in the Senate — but hasn’t said yet whether he will block a unanimous consent request to vote before Friday’s deadline.  

Senate reporters, meanwhile, have to become experts in the Byzantine 30-hour rule, intervening days, cloture on motions to proceed, motions to proceed, and so on.  

Tamar Hallerman and Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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