Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — a man Cruz once derided as a liar and an ally of Democrats — is counting on the Texan to help navigate an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate with virtually no margin for error. As a trusted voice of the conservative wing of the GOP and conduit to the House Freedom Caucus, Cruz is fast emerging as a pivotal player in the Republican bid to do away with the landmark Democratic health care law.
If true – and it may well be, given McConnell’s inclusion of Cruz and a number of other conservatives on the repeal development team and exclusion of several moderate Senators – it marks a huge shift for either Cruz, McConnell, or more likely – both.
As told by Politico, the story of Cruz’ rise is due to his transformation from bomb-throwing political hellion to savvy political negotiator. Though it’s true that Cruz seems to have embraced tactics that his colleagues find more palatable, the true story is likely more one of practicality than transformation.
That Cruz would find more acceptance in the Senate post-election should come as no surprise. First-term Senator or not, anyone who can gin up the level of primary support Cruz did and develop the best ground game in modern political history is sure to gain some attention, if not respect. After all, moderates tend to be moderate because they’re more interested in votes than in principle – and Cruz proved that he knows how to generate votes.
It is also likely that McConnell saw the writing on the wall in the House repeal efforts. The fact that House Plan A fell apart due largely to a lack of conservative support signaled that the path forward lay in conservative territory. That Plan B passed after gaining early conservative support only confirmed it.
For his part, Cruz’ comments on his newfound role do sound more inclusive than those from the pre-election disputes with his own party – a change Cruz attributes to the party’s move from the defensive to the offensive side of the game.
“One of the challenges when the Obamacare bill was in the House, was that early on was that the different parts of the party were not talking to each other,” Cruz said in an interview in his office. “We wanted to ensure that the process from the outset was collaborative and inclusive … Different circumstances call for different approaches … Now our job is to deliver on the promises. And that’s a markedly different role than trying to prevent harmful policies from an imperial president.”
While the result of the Senate effort remains to be seen, one thing is for certain: With people like Cruz, Tom Coburn, and Mike Lee involved in the process, the interests of conservatives will be given due consideration.