Why Cruz tried to kill lame duck

Why Cruz tried to kill lame duck
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDemocrats: It's Trump's world, and we're just living in it On The Trail: Bernie Sanders and the paradox of choice Pompeo to speak to influential conservative group in Iowa MORE (R-Texas), the Tea Party star who clashed with fellow Republicans during the 2013 government shutdown, tried last month to force a cancelation of the post-election lame duck session.

Last month, Cruz circulated among GOP colleagues a draft of a letter pressing Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidReid pushes back on Sanders suggestion that a Democrat with plurality of delegates should be the nominee Harry Reid on 'Medicare for All': 'Not a chance in hell it would pass' The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms MORE (D-Nev.) not to schedule a legislative session after Nov. 4, Election Day.

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“We should commit to completing the Senate’s business for the year by November 3, 2014, so that the American people feel confident that they are making the most informed choices possible on Election Day,” Cruz wrote in the draft, which was circulated to rally support for cancelling the lame duck altogether.

The Hill obtained the document, which has not been made previously public.

“We should all pledge in a bipartisan manner to not convene the Senate on or between November 4, 2014, and January 2, 2015, except in the rare instance of a totally unforeseen, sudden emergency requiring immediate action from the Senate,” it states.

Cruz drafted it before Republican and Democratic leaders agreed to pass a stopgap measure funding government until Dec. 11, which ensures lawmakers will return for a lame-duck session. The House passed the short-term funding resolution on Sept. 17 and the Senate followed suit the next day.

Their effort received a lukewarm reception, however, from other Senate Republicans who want to use the month of December to act on legislation stalled throughout the year, such as an extension of an Internet tax moratorium and the Defense Department authorization bill.

When Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Cruz’s close ally, was the only senator to sign on to his letter, Cruz softened it by dropping the language demanding that Reid cancel the lame duck, according to a Senate aide familiar with the original draft.

The final version, which Cruz and Lee sent to Reid on Sept. 10, kept their threat to object to any legislation they deemed “non-emergency” and force Reid to overcome a variety of procedural hurdles, lessening the prospect of the Democratic leader passing everything on his agenda for December.

Cruz and Lee publicized the revised letter in a press release.

Cruz’s spokeswoman said her boss still opposes holding a jam-packed legislative session after the election but before the newly elected Congress convenes in January.

“Our goal from the start has been to shine a light on problems with calling a lame duck session and how it weakens accountability and subverts the will of the American people. We continue to oppose it, absent a legislative emergency (like Ebola),” said Catherine Frazier, the aide.  

“I can't speak to what others who did not sign on to this letter may want to accomplish, and I will note that it is not unusual for letters circulated among the GOP conference to go through rounds of edits,” she added.

One Republican aide said the episode showed that Cruz has limited following in the conference, especially because many colleagues still resent his role in the 2013 government shutdown. Last year, the Texas freshman urged House conservatives to oppose a government-funding resolution that allowed the implementation of ObamaCare to go forward.

The ensuing standoff shuttered the government for 16 days and inflicted a severe blow to the GOP’s approval rating, which has recovered only recently.

Reid laid out his lame-duck agenda in mid-September.

He said the Senate will take up an omnibus spending bill; a package of tax extenders; the annual Defense Department authorization and the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bipartisan measure allowing states to collect taxes from online retailers.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) announced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would hold hearings on a resolution authorizing military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria with an aim of holding a floor vote in December.