What will Cruz do?

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzCruz-backed candidate wins GOP primary in Colorado Trump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report Trump camp slating major sports figures for convention: report MORE (R-Texas) faces a tough decision on whether to follow through on his pledge to block any legislation he deemed nonessential in the lame-duck session.

With his colleagues scrambling to finish a $1 trillion government-funding measure and get out of town, Cruz is a wild card.

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He and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) took a hard line in September, warning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that they would object to passing non-emergency bills in December.

“If you do call a lame-duck session, we the undersigned will object to any unanimous consent request to in any way advance any non-emergency, substantial, and controversial legislation, nominations or treaties,” they wrote.

Three months later, Cruz, who declined to comment for this story, has shown little inclination to object to votes this week on the funding measure, a package of tax extenders or the Defense Department authorization bill.

But that hasn’t stopped his colleagues from wondering if he’ll do so.

The Tea Party favorite is a conservative force openly thinking about running for the White House in 2016. He’s repeatedly advised House conservatives to buck their leadership, and he’s been vocal in saying Republicans should do everything they can to attack President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Most importantly, Cruz is not someone who likes to go back on his statements, underlining the importance of his letter to Reid three months ago.

Cruz’s stances have often irked his Senate colleagues, though he has improved his relationship with the rest of his conference members since it hit rock bottom during the 2013 government shutdown, in which he played a major role.

He declined to marshal an offensive against legislation suspending the federal debt limit in February and campaigned for vulnerable establishment colleagues including Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in the midterm elections.

But allowing the government-funding measure to go through without raising procedural hurdles could be tough for Cruz given the heated rhetoric over immigration.

The House GOP bill is called a “cromnibus” because it would fund most of the government through the end of fiscal 2015 but keep the Department of Homeland Security operating only until the beginning of next year, as a means of preserving leverage with Obama on immigration.

Some conservative groups have blasted the strategy, and many House Republicans are expected to oppose it.

NumbersUSA, an advocacy group that supports lower immigration flows, announced Tuesday that it would score the cromnibus as a vote for amnesty.

“Congress has a moral obligation to American workers — whose job opportunities are threatened and whose wages are stagnant or declining — who made absolutely clear on Nov. 4 that they oppose Obama’s amnesty,” the group wrote.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Cruz’s likely rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, laid down his marker in the debate Tuesday.

He told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that he would vote against any spending bill that did not include language to defund Obama’s order shielding as many as 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.

Paul criticized the last-minute flood of legislation but stopped short of pledging to make procedural objections that would derail Reid’s plan to adjourn for the year in the next few days.

“It can be characterized as a dysfunctional process. We operate from deadline to deadline. It’s not the way a government should be run and I’ll voice my objection by being a ‘no’ vote,” he said.

Paul said he hoped that incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would make good on his promise to pass the 12 annual appropriations bills separately, avoiding the need to pass a massive catchall bill at year’s end.

McConnell wants to clear the decks of leftover work from 2014 to give the new Senate GOP majority a clean slate next year. 

He said Tuesday the Senate needs to pass the spending bill, the tax extenders package and the defense bill. 

Most senators would love to get that work wrapped up before the weekend, though that is looking increasingly unlikely.

The House now plans to move a short-term spending bill of a few days to give the Senate more time to consider the larger cromnibus package.

The House could vote as early as Thursday on the larger $1 trillion package, which could set up a Senate vote that day — unless Cruz or another senator objects.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who in past years has angered colleagues by blocking procedural votes over his concerns about excessive government spending, said he also wanted to make sure he had ample time to review the cromnibus, which is expected to number in the hundreds of pages, before voting on the Senate floor.

As a lame-duck lawmaker due to retire at the end of the month, he’s not inclined to object to a quick vote but predicted other members of the caucus would.

“We ought to know what’s in it,” he said.

Scott Wong contributed.