The Corner

A Lesson in Senate Protocol

The New York Times ran a story the other day headlined “Cruz Breaks With Senate Tradition While Criticizing Colleagues.” It began:

In his short time at the Capitol, Senator Ted Cruz, a freshman Republican from Texas, has shown little regard for long-standing rules of decorum. But on Friday, he publicly discussed the closed-door dealings of the Senate Republican Conference — and trashed his colleagues in the process.

Stopping by a Texas meeting of the Tea Party-aligned group FreedomWorks, Mr. Cruz called many of his colleagues “squishes,” forced to stand on conservative principles by the uncompromising stands of a triumphant trio of Republican “constitutionalists”: himself and Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.


At stake was the gun control legislation that the Senate dragged down this month. At issue for Mr. Cruz might be his exposure of a series of closed-door luncheons in which fellow Republicans took the three to task for announcing in advance that they would filibuster every single vote on the gun measure, including the simple motion to take up and begin debating the bill. Such meetings are expressly off the record.

“We’ve had probably five or six lunches with a bunch of Republican senators standing up and looking at Rand and Mike and me and yelling at the top of their lungs — I mean really upset,” he told the group to laughter and titters, according to a video posted by a Tea Party blogger and promoted by the liberal group People for the American Way. “And they said: ‘Why did you do this? As a result of what you did, when I go home, my constituents are yelling at me that I’ve got to stand on principle.’ I’m not making that up. I don’t even bother to argue with them. I just sort of let them yell.”

Let’s skip ahead a few paragraphs.

His account of those closed-door meetings does conflict with others. The New York Times reported on one blow-up when Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, angrily confronted the three senators about advertisements running in her home state accusing her of supporting a gun grab. Those ads were financed by an obscure gun rights group with close ties to Mr. Paul. According to several aides familiar with the confrontation, Mr. Cruz defensively jumped in to say he had nothing to do with the ads. Mr. Paul, in contrast, stormed out, saying he felt subject to an inquisition.

My old friend Ted Cruz has evidently not learned Senate protocol: You don’t speak in public about what other senators said at closed-door meetings while protecting their anonymity. You have your aides leak what happened, names included, to the New York Times.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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