Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has become something of a piñata for two groups of congressional Republicans: Those who eagerly support his exhortation to strip all funding for ObamaCare, and those who think risking a government shutdown over an ill-fated ObamaCare-defunding measure is daft politics.
It's pretty obvious why the second group would be annoyed with Cruz, who has been goading the House GOP to go all-in on the defunding plan for months, including through Cruz-branded TV ads (watch below). The first group is miffed because, when the House agreed to go along with Cruz's high-stakes defund-or-bust plan this week, Cruz issued this statement:
Today's announcement that the House will vote to defund Obamacare is terrific news.... We commend House leadership and House Republicans for listening to the people and for taking decisive action to stop Obamacare, the biggest job-killer in America. Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people. [Cruz]
This was seen by House Republicans, rightly or wrongly, as Cruz conceding that his own plan — get the GOP-led House to include defunding ObamaCare in the must-pass federal spending bill, then fight like hell to get the Senate on board, propelled by a "tsunami" of grassroots outrage — is doomed, and probably always was. They didn't appreciate the pep talk/kiss-off, and they let him know it, through social and news media.
Here are some of the best insults, snide comments, and other bits of pointed criticism congressional Republicans and their aides aimed at Cruz this week:
"Some people came here to govern and make things better for their constituents. Ted Cruz came here to throw bombs and fundraise off of attacks on fellow Republicans. He's a joke, plain and simple."
— Senior House GOP aide (Huffington Post)
"Cruz officially jumped the shark this week"
— GOP operative allied with House leadership (Huffington Post)
"For weeks, House Republicans have said the prospects of passing a defund bill in the Senate are grim, and Senators Lee, Cruz, and Rubio have responded by saying nothing is impossible if we fight hard enough. Now they are getting exactly what they asked for, and they issue a press release conceding defeat and refusing to join the fight they demanded in every TV appearance. It's time they put their money where their mouths are, and do something other than talk."
— House GOP leadership aide (National Review)
"Cruz keeps raising conservatives' hopes, and then, when we give him what he wants, he doesn't have a plan to follow through.... He's an amateur."
— GOP aide (National Review)
"Cruz is the leader of a secret cabal of leftists that are seeking control of the conservative movement.... Their aim is to force the party to take on suicidal missions to destroy the movement from within."
— Senior House Republican leadership source (Huffington Post)
"Nancy Pelosi is more well-liked around here."
— GOP aide (National Review)
If you didn't notice that all of those barbs come from Republicans who refused to comment on record, Cruz did.
Ted Cruz: "I'm always impressed by the courage of anonymous congressional aides."
— Chris Moody (@Chris_Moody) September 19, 2013
But not all the shade-throwing was anonymous. Here's Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) not-so-sublty criticizing Cruz (Princeton '92, Harvard Law '95):
I didn't go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count -- the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position. –BC
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) September 19, 2013
And in the House, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) calls Cruz's defund-ObamaCare plan a "fraud against the American people," and against House Republicans. "Whether it's Custer, whether it's kamikaze, or whether it's Gallipoli or whatever, we are going to lose this," he tells CNN:
"We as House Republicans should stop letting Ted Cruz set our agenda for us. If he can deliver on this fine. If he can't, then he should keep quiet from now on and we shouldn't listen to him.... Either put up or shut up."
On the other side of the GOP divide, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) is one of the House conservatives pushing for the defunding strategy:
— Sean Duffy (@RepSeanDuffy) September 18, 2013
Democrats are watching the infighting with nervous bemusement — gawking at rivals engaged in an internecine knife fight is fun, but government shutdowns aren't. MSNBC's Chris Hayes plays it pretty straight, though, with this three-minute explainer on how we got here: