WASHINGTON — It might be time for Ted Cruz to get a dog.
Because as the saying goes, if you want a friend in Washington, that’s what you do. And by the time Cruz’s crusade to defund Obamacare finally crashed to a halt Wednesday, the Texas senator had precious few friends left.
The government shutdown alienated colleagues in both parties. It generated fresh animosity toward the tea party and a flurry of recriminations toward Cruz. Voter support for the Republican Party plunged.
And the health care law survived unscathed.
“This is a terrible deal,” Cruz said moments before the deal to reopen the government sailed through the Senate with bipartisan support. He blamed the defeat on colleagues who lacked the political courage to stand with him.
“The outcome could have been different,” he said. “Imagine a world in which Senate Republicans united to support House Republicans.”
Cruz willed himself to the center of the fight. For months, he predicted that Democrats would cave if Republicans stood together to strip funding from the health care law. He dramatized the cause with a 21-hour overnight Senate speech, soaring to unusual prominence for a freshman senator. He refrained from using the risk of a catastrophic default on U.S. debt as leverage. Still, the defeat was so resounding that it left his political future in doubt.
The vast majority of his colleagues repudiated his tactics. Some accused him of promoting himself more than any attainable goals or the health of his party.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, called the last few weeks an “agonizing odyssey.”
“This has been one of the most shameful chapters I’ve seen here,” he said, lamenting damage to the GOP for little gain. “We’re in a hole. We have to dig out. We weren’t going to defund Obamacare, and we weren’t going to keep the government shut down.”
About the only praise flowing toward Cruz on Wednesday pertained to his decision not to stand in the way of the deal Senate leaders hatched.
“At some point, when you’ve reached the end of the road, to then make life miserable for no reason, with absolutely no outcome in sight — then the pendulum swings,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.
Cruz maintained that he never had any intention of allowing default, though he hadn’t made that clear until he stepped in front of TV cameras, right at the same moment Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had taken to the Senate floor to unveil the eleventh-hour deal he’s struck with Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“There’s nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days. The outcome will be the same,” Cruz said, adding that “once again, it appears the Washington establishment is refusing to listen to the American people.”
Cruz and his aides insisted the fight actually paid off. The flaws of Obamacare are now a topic of daily conversation in Washington and across the country, they argued.