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Clipping the Wings of Ted Cruz:

How Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Reclaims the Republican Party in 2016
Sean K. Long
Political Science Senior Thesis
University of Notre Dame
Submitted April 29, 2015

Advised by Geoffrey Layman

Tables of Contents

I. Introduction3
II. Current Political Landscape10
III. Understanding Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell: Background and Desires17
IV. The Institutional Game: Senate Procedure and Strategy in the 114th Congress30
V. A Negotiation Strategy for Majority Leader McConnell50
VI. Conclusion58

Works Cited60

Earlier today, I got a call from the President. Also from Senator Reid and the
Speaker and Ted Cruz tooAll of them have the view that we ought to see what areas of
agreement there are and see if we can make some progress for the country.

Senator Mitch McConnell, 5 November 2014, one day after the 2014 midterm

I. Introduction
Theodore Roosevelt, whose split with William Howard Taft in 1912 fractured the
Republican Party, was president the last time parties in Congress were as polarized as
they are today (Mansbridge and Martin vii). While both parties have shifted further
towards the extremes, as Layman et al. (2010) explain, GOP candidates and office
holders have moved right more than their Democratic counterparts have moved left in
recent years. This reflects Saunders and Abramowitzs (2004) similar finding that
Republican activists are farther to the right of the electorate than active Democrats are to
the left across the policy spectrum. Therefore, this paper incorporates literature on
negotiation, institutional and non-institutional power in the United States Senate, and
political polarization to provide insights for a Republican Party that must negotiate with
its activist base to succeed in 2016. I define Republicans success as maintaining
control of the House of Representatives and Senate, while proposing policies that make a
more liberal presidential electorate comfortable electing a Republican president. As thenVice President Nixon argued, Republicans present themselves as economic
conservatives, but conservatives with a heart (Goldwater 5).
I choose to analyze the Senate because, whereas the House of Representatives
will have a 28-seat surplus to pass legislation, Senate Republicans will need to negotiate
with at least six non-Republican votes to overcome a filibuster threat (Manning). I
primarily focus on two figures, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). These two represent the clash between rank-and-file
Republicans and far-right Republicans unwilling to compromise with President Obama.
Whereas Cruz influenced McConnell and the Republican Party largely on the Senate
floor in the 113th Congress, Cruz will influence both as a non-establishment presidential
candidate in the 114th Congress. One half-century ago, Ralph Huitt (1961) presented a
model of the Senate man and the outsider that fits the Cruz-McConnell relationship.
McConnell is the Senate man, proud of the institution and ready to defend its traditions
and perquisites against all outsiders (566-567). Cruz is the Outsideridentified by
his conscious rejection of the behavior associated with the Inner Clubspeak[ing] out
whenever he pleases on whatever subject he chooses without regard to whether he can get
any vote but his own (571).
On March 23, 2015, during a weekly Convocation at the evangelical Liberty
University, Senator Cruz announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
Cruz promised that a new generation of courageous conservatives would reignite the
promise of America (The Washington Post). Still a junior senator without the minoritys
procedural toolkit, Cruz will work outside the Senate to influence Republican Party
priorities before November 2016. Senator Cruz, who ranked 94th in seniority in the 113th
Senate and remains 41st in seniority among Senate Republicans, is a face of Senate noninstitutional power (Roll Call). Elected in 2012, the anti-establishment Tea Partier and
darling of the far-right activist base operates outside conventional power structures to
influence legislation in both the House and Senate. Directly in the Senate and indirectly
on the campaign trail, Cruz will challenge the institutionalist McConnell, who by many

accounts is inclined to seek compromise solutions to govern effectively in the 114th
This thesis poses the question: How should Republican Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell negotiate with an anti-compromise wing of Tea Partiers and evangelicals
personified in Ted Cruzif the Republican Party seeks to present itself as a governing
party in the 2016 presidential and senatorial elections? I argue that Majority Leader
McConnell and establishment Republicans now view compromising with Senate
Democrats to pass legislation as necessary to pursue electoral and policy interests.
However, McConnell must compensate for Cruz, who largely views bipartisan
compromise as antithetical to the Republican cause and whose presidential campaign will
push a crowded Republican primary field towards more extreme positions.
Therefore, McConnell must identify a sub-caucus of Democrats and Republicans
to craft bipartisan Senate agreement capable of reaching President Obamas desk, even if
he refuses to sign it. For example, according to Quorum Analytics, the first 100 days of
the 114th Senate saw increases in bipartisan co-sponsorships (44% compared to 39% and
37% in the previous two Congresses, respectively), the highest number of amendments
since 1975, and more introduced bills than at the same time during the previous two
Congresses (Marks). Despite the increased action, the McConnell-led Senate produced
fewer results, passing only five bills (compared to 6 and 8 at the same point in the
previous two Congresses) and enacting zero. However, with bipartisan legislation on
Keystone XL (passed), a reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (introduced but not
passed), Iran legislation and the confirmation of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, among

others, both Republicans and Democrats can claim bipartisanship (Washington Post
Editorial Board).
Republicans, by tying President Obama to presumptive Democratic presidential
nominee Hillary Clinton, can claim credit for Republican-led bipartisan achievement,
undemocratic executive action by a Democratic president, and that only a Republican
president will sign legislation such as Keystone XL into law. The remaining challenge
will be allowing the Republican presidential nominee, recently emerged from an activistdriven primary, to triangulate without being called a flip-flopper. Since the nominee
must be able to triangulate through adopting Republican positions that already exist, I
argue that Majority Leader McConnell should use the Senate to create a menu of
bipartisan positions for the 2016 Republican nominee to selectively champion in a
general election. Part of this negotiation may not be McConnells ability to coax Cruz to
join establishment Republicans, but to minimize the caucus size by giving potential
members something to lose in joining Cruzs cause.1
To accomplish this, I argue that McConnells internal strategy should revolve
around a bipartisan 13-member informal governing coalition, consisting of eight
moderate Democrats and five Republicans. Whereas the Speaker of the House with a
unified caucus can impose sweeping partisan progress (Rawls 88), as Bach (1983)
explains, the Majority Leader can only propose the agenda; he may not impose it. In
negotiation literature, a BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) is each
sides preferred course of action in the absence of a deal (Luecke, location 287).2
1 Personal Communication with Eric Washburn on December 27, 2014. Washburn is a former Legislative
Assistant to Senators Daschle and Reid. He suggested that McConnell co-opt about six Republicans (like
Mike Lee) who might be sympathetic to Cruz, and give them leadership roles, committee assignments
beyond their seniority, etc.
2 Note: Location 287 refers to the location in the Kindle E-Books edition of this text.

Generally, a better BATNA equates to more negotiation power. For instance, absent a
negotiated agreement with McConnell, Cruzs BATNA is to appeal to Senate and House
colleagues sympathetic to an informal Cruz Caucus, as well as to the public. As the Cruz
Caucus grows, Cruz sees his BATNA as more attractive. McConnells ability to isolate
and negotiate with Cruz depends on the size of Cruzs BATNA, which increases with
each new member that joins Cruzs cause. However, as Steven S. Smith (2014) explained
following the 2014 midterm elections, More or less, McConnell has about six months to
be the primary spokesman for Senate Republicans and then hes going to have substantial
competition, with four Republican senators speculated to hold presidential aspirations
(Bolton; Smith). Therefore, I analyze the ongoing Cruz-McConnell negotiation while
offering procedural steps that McConnell could take to improve his BATNA early in the
114th Congress.
After reviewing the current political landscape following the 2014 midterm
elections, this paper proceeds in four parts. The first section profiles McConnell and
Cruz as two Republicans with often-divergent interests and motivations, with the purpose
to illuminate how senators who largely agree on substance can differ on process. The
second and third sections examine the tools of Senate institutional and non-institutional
influence, with the purpose to explain how a Senate leader should shift tactics when a
maverick, non-senior member such as Senator Cruz transitions from the minority to the
majority. The second section draws lessons from literature on both Senate history and
political polarization to define the institutional playing field (Toobin). This intends to
show Cruzs diminished institutional power as a non-senior majority Senator, and provide
context for his increased reliance on outside influence especially following the midterm

elections. Through reading Sun Tzus The Art of War, Ted Cruz argues that a battle,
whether in war or politics, is won by choosing the terrain on which it will be fought
(Toobin). As former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle described, a
majority leaders the only real power is the respect for the position and the power of
his persuasion. Therefore, this account hopes to portray the messiness of the Senate,
exploring the role of the filibuster, unanimous consent agreements and other procedural
tools that junior majority members use to influence the Senate agenda (Crespin and
Monroe 1; Hanson, location 592).
The third section defines the non-institutional terrain. I offer original quantitative
research into the 2012 Convention Delegate Study to ask whether the freshman Texas
Senator embodies a rise of conservative opposition to compromise, or is a lone star.
While recognizing the limitations of roll-call vote analysis, I compare 113th Congress Roll
Call data with data from the 48 individual votes taken on the S. 1 Keystone XL pipeline
legislation (Lewis and Poole). Using percent likelihood that individual senators vote
alongside McConnell, Reid and Cruz as the dependent variable, I ask whether a senators
re-election date (2014, 2016 or 2018) has a statistically significant effect on ones
likelihood to vote with the Majority Leader on Keystone XL. Together, these two
sections illustrate how Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can use institutional and noninstitutional tools to improve his bargaining position, or BATNA, with Senator Ted
Cruz and the far-right wing of the Republican Party.
The final section offers a negotiation strategy for Majority Leader McConnell as
Senator Cruz uses outside influencein his roles as both senator and presidential
candidateto shift Republican Policy to the right during the 2016 presidential primary.

While Majority Leader McConnell cannot directly negotiate with Cruz on the Senate
floor, McConnell should use the thirteen-member bipartisan coalition to stake out
Republican establishment positions for the eventual Republican nominee to adopt after an
activist-driven primary. The Republican presidential nominee, having shifted right
during the primary election, can triangulate during the general election by championing a
few of these bipartisan but Republican-led positions. McConnell portrays the Senate as
capable of passing substantive legislation, while the Republican nominee can choose to
either maintain the primary stance (i.e. standing up for the candidates values) or safely
shift to a more pragmatic Republican position (i.e. compromise in order to achieve
bipartisan compromise) on each issue.
The Cruz-McConnell relationship represents the historic battle between
institutional and non-institutional power in the U.S. Senate. From a contemporary
perspective, the Cruz-McConnell dynamic represents the battle between more pragmatic
establishment Republicans and conservative purists who place ideological goals
above party goals and compromise. Through understanding the intra-party negotiation
between two figures epitomizing this insider-outsider relationship, one can better
understand the nature of American politics and the exercise of power as a fractured party
faces a decisive presidential election.


II. Current Political Landscape

In an era of increased polarization, Ted Cruz tactfully exploited a wrinkle in the
GOP. According to Yale constitutional scholar Jack Balkin, We are near the peak of a
long cycle of increasing polarization between the nations two political parties
primarily due to the increasing radicalization of the Republicans over time (Mann and
Ornstein 44). Balkin proposes two reasons for this: conflict extension and a loss of
Republican political dominance. Conflict extension states that a politicians stance on
one issue usually predicts that politicians stance on a wide range of economic and social
issues (Graber). For example, if I know ones stance on abortion, I can predict his or her
stance on climate change or the corporate income tax. The corollary to fewer
crosscutting issue spaces is that more stances become labeled as exclusively Democratic
or Republican (see Layman and Carsey 2002; Layman et al. 2010).
This presented problems for both rank-and-file and more conservative
Republicans when Democratic Majority Leader Reid controlled the Senate agenda in the
113th Congress. For Tea Party and evangelical Republicans, [c]ompromise [was] likely
to be seen as political failureor lack of ideological purity (Balkin 1170). Rank-andfile Republicans more pre-disposed to compromise would fear that any compromise
with Democrats [would] encourage primary challenges from more extreme candidates on
the right. Second, even with recent 2014 gains, the GOP has overall experienced a loss
of political dominance, due to a shrinking base (older, whiter, more religious) and more
radical internal elements (such as the Tea Party) (1171). Balkin also finds that
polarization, conflict extension and slipping dominance create incentives to engage in

strategies of obstruction and confrontation that well-socialized politicians might not have
attempted in the past (1172). Perhaps this explains why Ted Cruz frames the battle not as
Democrats versus Republicans, but as the entrenched career politicians in Washington
versus the American people (emphasis added) (Trinko).
According to W. Lee Rawls (2009), the American legislative system is capable of
either sweeping partisan progress or incremental bipartisan progress (88). Even if all 54
Senate Republicans support a bill, the minoritys power to filibuster makes bipartisan
negotiationsgenerally a precondition to passing contentious legislation in the Senate
(88). Majority Leader McConnell and Senator Cruz differ in terms of the process to
achieve their similar policy and political goals. McConnell recognizes that the Senate
with a powerful minority can only deliver incremental bipartisan progress, while the
obstreperous Cruz favors sweeping partisan change. Further, both McConnell and Cruz
share a political interest in electing a Republican president in 2016, while McConnell
hopes to retain his position as majority leader beyond 2016. To achieve this goal,
McConnell believes over the next two years a Republican-controlled Senate must show
that it can govern, and that requires passing legislation. Two editorials published
surrounding the 2014 congressional electionsone published by Majority Leader
McConnell and Speaker Boehner, the other by Senator Cruzpresent the clearest
evidence of this divide.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial published immediately following the midterms,
McConnell and Boehner are looking ahead to the next Congress and mention the word
bipartisan five times. Senator Cruz, however, preemptively outlined his own views on
Ten Republican priorities for 2015 in a USA Today editorial two weeks before the

midterms. The Cruz and McConnell-Boehner columns share many policy interests, but
Cruz advocates a more confrontational approach. Cruz frames his strategy around a
Republican president in 2017 implementing bolder conservative proposals, while
considering the prospect of legislation that can both pass a Republican-held Senate and
President Barack Obamas veto pen as an afterthought. Further, Cruz makes no mention
of bipartisan efforts, daring Democrats instead to filibuster or veto these [Republican]
bills (USA Today).
In short, each column presents a common goalconsolidated Republican control
of the House, Senate and White House; conflicting strategies for the next two years
endanger this goal. Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Boehner recognize
compromise as necessary for a stronger economy in the final years of President
Barack Obamas presidency, while Cruzs strategy rejects compromise in anticipation of
a Republican president who will implement similar priorities in 2017.
The Republican Debate on Obamacare
In March 2010, President Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA),
commonly known as Obamacare, which aims to achieve universal health coverage
through an individual mandate. As Miller and Burton (2013) explain, perhaps no single
issue has more successfully galvanized the Republican Party since President Obama
took office (17). President Obamas signature health care legislation irks Republicans not
necessarily because of the individual mandate itself; even former Republican Speaker of
the House Newt Gingrich has acknowledged that the mandates genesis came from the
conservative Heritage Foundation in the early 1900s (Roy). What troubles Republicans
more is the processDemocrats resorted to [50-vote] budget reconciliation as a means

to circumvent their loss of a filibuster-proof majority to pass Obamacare in March 2010
(Connelly 9). While Ted Cruzs strategy represents only a sliver of Republicans, the size
of that sliver will determine his bargaining power with McConnell in the 114th Congress.
Debate over the future of Obamacare defines the battle lines well. Senate Republicans
considered three methods of attack, with Ted Cruz the face of the most extreme (Nather):
Option One: Full repeal through regular order
This is both symbolic and innocuous, but unlikely to succeed given an
insurmountable 60-vote supermajority needed to overcome a Democratic
filibuster. For example, Rand Paul (R-KY) stated that he is committed one
hundred percent to full repeal, but included that using regular order or
reconciliation is an inside the beltway fight.
Option Two: Modify the law through regular order
Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) best represents this stance to keep what
works and get rid of what doesnt.
Option Three: Full repeal through the budget reconciliation process
Reconciliation measures cannot be filibustered and require only a simple
majority for passage (Evans). A Republican majority could avoid Senate
Democrats altogether and pass the bill, which President Obama would veto. Ted
Cruz championed this stance, stating, I think we should start by using [budget]
reconciliation to pass complete and total repeal (Nathan). Senators Marco
Rubio3 (R-FL) and freshman Mike Rounds4 (R-SC) tacitly advocated this option.
This is symbolic but potentially very harmful to future bipartisan cooperation, as
Republicans would use a back-channel procedural measure to exclude Democrats
from the legislative process.
Assuming support from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives on
each measure, only Option Two produces legislation that President Obama would
consider signing. The most likely scenario is that Senate Republicans first introduce
Option One to fulfill their campaign promise to voters, before focusing efforts on Option
Two, garnering at least six Democratic votes on individual measures to reform
3 Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida): I think we need to do it any way we can to get it done
4 Senator Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota), via Rob Skjosberg, Director of Rounds transition
team): repeal and replace as much of Obamacare as possible through the budget process"

Obamacare. However, Option Threetotal Obamacare repeal so Obama can veto it
produces no legislation and excludes Senate Democrats, who will in turn be less likely to
support future Republican-led measures to reform Obamacare. If Ted Cruz becomes
more than an army of one, his bargaining power increases with Majority Leader
McConnell and other key Senators such as Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (RUtah) (Nather; POLITICO Special Report). For example, Hatch demonstrated his
uncertainty after the midterm elections through stating that he was currently examining
all options and talking with his colleagues on how to best approach the issue (Nather).
There are a number of factors that make negotiation more favorable in the 114th
Congress, but effective negotiation requires delicate action by Majority Leader
McConnell. In the 113th Congress, both parties had clear incentives for strategic
disagreement, described by Barber and McCarty (2013) as a situation in which a
president, party, or another political actor...see[s] more political benefit in refusing to
negotiate and in preserving the issue for future campaigns (35, 57). Senate Republicans,
as a minority, had little stake in governing and saw greater political gain by serving as
consistent opposition to President Obama and the Senate Democratic majority.
However, with the political realignment in the 114th Congress and Republican
control of both congressional chambers, I contend that most Senate Republicans and
Democrats now have an incentive to agreeeven if President Obama does not. One
might assume that President Obama has an interest in creating a legislative legacy in his
second term. Those hopes, to some, were dashed when he issued an executive order on
immigration shortly after the 2014-midterm elections and vetoed the Keystone
legislation. Majority Leader McConnell has an incentive to negotiate with Senate

Democrats to achieve consensus policy solutions, as he seeks to demonstrate the
Republican Partys capacity to govern. Further, the freshmen Republican Senators in the
114th Congress owe their seats to the Republican establishment, whose calculated strategy
shepherded certain candidates to Congress. Chris McDaniel, a tea party conservative
who nearly defeated six-term Senator Thad Cochran in the Republican Party primary,
stated, You had the entire Republican Party in Washington doing everything they could
to keep the true conservative out (Rucker and Costa). Regardless of how conservative
or combative these Senators campaigned to be, most owe their congressional seats to the
Republican establishment and, in many ways, to their majority leader.
Republicans overalland especially Senate Republicansmust show themselves
as a governing party capable of legislating at the local, state and national level (Brooks).
As New York Times columnist David Brooks describes, the midterm elections awarded
Republicans with more legislative power nationwide than anytime over the past
century: 69 of 99 state legislative bodies, 31 of the 50 governorships, a 29-seat cushion
in the House of Representatives and 54 seats in the Senate (Richardson). This lack of
political cover and new electoral interests leave Republicans with incentives to present
legislation to become the undisputed governing party capable of controlling the
presidency (Cillizza, Blake and Sullivan).
The Senate illustrates this reality well. Republican Senators elected in the 2010
Tea Party wave ran outside the establishment and owed little allegiance to the party
leadership for their seats.5 However, when a presidential election in two years will
motivate more of the Democratic electorate to vote, Republicans must defend 24 of the
5 Personal Communication with Joshua Kaplan, Professor of Political Science, University of Notre Dame,
October 2014.

34 Senate seats up for re-election. These Senators must rely on resources from the
Republican leadership, especially as seven control seats that President Obama carried in
2008 and 2012 (Cillizza, Blake and Sullivan). These 24 Senators arguably have more
incentive to negotiate now than in the previous Congress.
However, Ted Cruz, with sights on his own Republican presidential nomination in
2016, will likely continue to see compromise as antithetical to his own political and
ideological ambitions. The dynamic over the next two years between Cruz, the outsider,
and McConnell, the institutionalist, will greatly determine who controls the Republican
agenda, its legislative outcomes, and thus Majority Leader McConnells capacity to
govern in the 114th Congress. McConnells electoral interest is two-pronged: demonstrate
the Republican Senates capacity to govern while making the electorate feel comfortable
electing a Republican president in 2016 (MacGillis).

III. Understanding Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell: Background and Desires
To understand the negotiation between Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell, one must first
understand the men. Through a brief introduction to the story, interests and desires of
each, this section provides a perspective through which to view each actors past and
future decisions. While Cruz, the Senate newcomer, receives a more systematic profile, I
examine both Senators with three aspects in mind: perception, profile and desires. After
discussing general perceptions, the second area includes biographical elements that are
essential to understandand in some cases rationalizeeach figures decision-making.
Ted Cruz has been compared to 1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater,
as well as former Republican Senators Jesse Helms and Joseph McCarthy, so I analyze
the extent to which we can learn from these comparisons. Here, I also consider how Cruz
compares to the activist style from the model Outsider in the Senate presented by Huitt
(1961). The final section makes explicit each figures presumed interests, motivations
and constraints, to provide context for the later analysis of the Cruz-McConnell
relationship when the Senate chamber is the arena.
The Cruz profile relies heavily on work of Mario Broes, who synthesized
elements of Ted Cruzs life story into Ted Cruz: Cruzing Republicans to the White House.
Much of the base narrative of Majority Leader McConnell stems from a November 2013
article written by Jason Zengerle in Politico Magazine titled, Get Mitch, and Alec
MacGillis book titled, The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell, two
comprehensive accounts of McConnells political ascent.
Senator Ted Cruz

If you're going to persuade everyone whether it's politics, your career or your personal
life ... you can't fall into the mistake of thinking that anyone who disagrees with you is
either stupid or evil.

Ted Cruz, on advice to college graduates from a Houston Chronicle interview

I am perfectly happy to compromise and work with anybody, Republicans, Democrats,
libertarians, I'll work with Martians, if and the "if" is critical they are willing to cut
spending and reduce the debt

Senator Ted Cruz, on Fox News Sunday in August 2012

He was not a compromiser. He was not somebody who tried to make friends by
accepting what was then the political correctness of the day. If you want to defeat Ted
Cruz, you have to appeal to his principles not to his tactics.

Alan Dershowitz, Cruzs former professor at Harvard Law School

Uber, a mobile ride-sharing service where drivers can turn their cars into private

cabs, disrupts the old and highly regulated taxi business (Nocera). Ted Cruz calls
himself the Uber of American politics.6 Paraphrasing Cruz: The power of technology is
to disrupt the delivery of a good or service, thrusting enormous pushback upon the
services incumbent providers.7 The old and highly regulated service is the American
political system, the incumbent providers are career politicians, and Ted Cruz is Uber.
Republicans who oppose Ted Cruz generally agree with his principles of strict
adherence to free-market economics and constitutional liberty (Broes). Supporters share
both his principles and tactics, and the principal tactic is to stop the Obama agenda.8
Manyincluding Cruzs constituents in Texasthink highly of the junior Senator with
presumed presidential ambitions. In April 2014, Cruz was the most popular Texas
6 This quote comes from Ted Cruzs speech to the Congressional Summit on Next Generation Leadership,
held in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 2014. I attended the event.
7 Ibid.
8 From Broes: Early in 2011, Jim Geraghty got the following statement from Cruz: what [the 2012]
election is all about is helping provide leadership to defend free-market principles and stop the Obama

politician, with a 47 percent approval rating that bested Governor Rick Perry and senior
Senator John Cornyn (Ayala-Talavera). To supporters, including Washington Post
columnist and conservative icon George Will (2011), Cruz is as good as it getsa
steadfast conservative with uncompromising principles who also happens to be the first
Hispanic elected to represent Texas in the Senate.
However, many Republicans despise Senator Cruz. On February 12, 2014, Cruz
filibustered a measure to increase the debt ceiling, forcing then-Minority Leader
McConnell and eleven other Republicans to join Democrats to overcome the 60-vote
filibuster threshold (Broes, location 204). While all twelve voted against final passage of
the debt ceiling increase, a primary challenger could now accuse them of voting
alongside Democrats to raise the debt ceiling. Mitch McConnell, according to
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, thinks that Cruz is literally the most selfish
senator that hes ever seen in his years here (Kaplan, R.). Representative Peter King, a
New York congressman who in 2013 introduced legislation to support victims of
Hurricane Sandy that Senator Cruz opposed, created a new political action committee to
show that [t]here are Republican voices out there that are alternatives to Ted Cruz
(Burns). Another anonymous Republican congressman lamented, If you talk to Ted
Cruz, tell him to stay on his side of the Capitol. We have enough problems without that
idiot coming over here and screwing things up (Warren). For many Republicans, Cruz
is a disrespectful and media-obsessed freshman senator who, at best, will only push his
colleagues farther right and, at worst, will cost the Republican Party the presidency in
2016 (Zengerle). Perhaps Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is correct in calling Cruz a
wacko bird.

Before evaluating Ted Cruz as a negotiation partner with Majority Leader
McConnell, one must understand Cruz as a rational actor. This requires understanding
the three traits undergirding Ted Cruz: hardcore conservatism, unwavering principles, and
single-issue opposition to Obamacare. For Cruz adversaries, my intention is not to prove
the Senators actions justifiable, only to show that these actions make sense in the context
of his biography.
Cruz fights the battles of his father and the founding fathers. Born in Cuba and
raised under Dictator Fulgencio Batista, Cruzs father Rafael became a leading militant
against the regime (Broes [79]]). Facing death after release from military detention,
Rafael Cruz secured a student visa in 1957 and arrived in the U.S. to study at the
University of Texas at Austin (Broes [33, 78]). Learning English while washing dishes,
Rafael pushed local organizations to support Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, with
his liberators coming to power in January 1959 (Broes [86]). Returning to Cuba
hoping to witness Castros changed Cuba, Rafael was shocked at the redistributive
policies and intolerance of dissenting, pro-Batista voices. His mother left her job as a
schoolteacher after the Castro regime forced public schools to teach communism; as
Rafael recounts, She preferred to be publicly humiliated than to poison the minds of
schoolchildren with Marxist doctrine (Broes [78]). Ted Cruz described his lessons from
hearing the experience that caused his family to leave Cuba with nothing but the clothes
on their back: They didnt know Castro was a communist; what they knew was that
Batista was a cruel and oppressive dictator (Weiner). Misled by Castros promise,
Rafael Cruz would not make that mistake again; in Ted Cruzs words, He worked seven

days a weekpaid his way through the University of Texasand eventually [went] on to
start a small business and to work towards the American dream (Broes [83]). Broes
encapsulates the effect this experience had on Ted Cruzs upbringing:
Raphael Cruzs worldview revolved around the fear of repeating the experience of
the Cuban Revolution in America and it became part of the future senators
upbringing. When my son was eight or nine years old, our conversation around
the dinner table centered on politics every day, Raphael Cruz said. I remember
over and over I would ask him, You know, Ted, when I faced oppression in Cuba,
I had a place to come to if we lose our freedoms here, where are we going to
go? ([101])
Ted Cruz has two heroes: My father and Ronald Reagan ([09]). The preceding
story begins to explain the first, while the relationship between Cruz and his father
explains the second. From birth, Rafael Cruz raised his son on free-market economic
thought, once boasting, Instead of reading comic books, he was reading Adam Smith, he
was reading Milton Friedman, he was reading von Mises, he was reading Frdric
Bastiat (Murphy). At 13, Ted Cruz started school at the Free Enterprise Education
Center, whose founder one former student called a Santa Claus of Liberty (Broes [17]).
With a curriculum revolving around the Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom, Cruzs
favorite pillar was: Everything that the government gives to you, it must first take away
from you ([17]). A young Cruz was also chosen to join the Constitutional
Corroborators, a youth troupe that spoke about the Constitution to civic groups across
Texas; Rafael Cruz recalled, each of the five kids memorized the entire U.S.
Constitution (Brody). Campaigning for Texas Attorney General in 2009, Ted Cruz
recounted, The two things that had the greatest impact on me were, number one, my
dad, and then this experience [at the Free Enterprise Education Center] (Nordinger).
Overall, the Reaganesque values of economic liberty and small government were planted

into Ted Cruzs consciousness from an early age, making his two lifelong heroes
inextricably linked.
Ted Cruzs background as a North American debate champion while at Princeton
University may partially explain his unwavering principles, but Cruzs fight extends
beyond politics. Rafael Cruz became a born-again Christian five years after his sons
birth and has now become a travelling preacher (Brody; Broes [153]). In a 2013
interview, Rafael explained: When [Ted] was four I used to read Bible stories to him all
the time.And I would just say, you know Ted, you have been gifted above any man that
I know and God has destined you for greatness (Brody). Later in the same interview,
Rafael declared, before [Ted Cruz] left high school he knew his purpose wasto
defend and protect freedom and the Constitution, to fight for free markets and limited
government. And when Cruz carried this intellectual upbringing to Princeton University
and Harvard Law School, Rafael believed his son was conducting missionary work
with the liberal elite. When Ted Cruz speaks, he does not just defend himself, but also his
father, Ronald Reagan and, arguably, God.
Case Studies
Ted Cruz has been most prominently been compared to three figures, and each
roughly matches with one of Cruzs three overarching traits; Barry Goldwater for
hardcore conservatism, Jesse Helms for unwavering principles, and Joseph McCarthy for
single-issue opposition. When a reporter asked Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)elected
to the Senate when Ronald Reagan ascended to the presidency in 1980if he could
compare Ted Cruz to a former colleague, Grassley responded, Not somebody Ive
served withI think Barry Goldwaterreading the history of Barry Goldwaterhe

made those sorts of impressions right away (Broes [09]). While some see Cruzs
presidential campaign as reminiscent of Goldwaters ill-fated 1964 bid, and though Cruz
often evokes language similar to Goldwaters Conscience of a Conservative, there are
two important differences. First, with an electorate reeling from John F. Kennedys
November 1963 assassination, Goldwater was destined to lose in 1964. Larry Sabato,
Director of the Miller Center of Politics at the University of Virginia, explained, Long
story short, [Lyndon Baines] Johnson was going to win by a wide margin [in 1964]
regardless (Nowicki). Second, Goldwater would never have announced his presidential
candidacy at Liberty University. As Dan Nowicki of The Arizona Republic noted,
Goldwater was openly hostile to religious conservatives and once memorably quipped
that every good Christian ought to kick [founder of Liberty University and the Moral
Majority Jerry] Falwell right in the ass. Further, raised as an Episcopalian by a Jewish
father and Episcopalian mother, Goldwater was somewhat agnostic about organized
religion. Goldwater did not often attend church but stated, If a man acts in a religious
way, an ethical way, then hes really a religious manand it doesnt have a lot to do with
how often he gets inside a church (Hollowverse). It is hard to imagine Ted Cruz
agreeing with this sentiment.
Regarding Jesse Helms, the 52-year Senator from North Carolina who The New
York Times dubbed a beacon of conservatism, Ted Cruz in 2013 declared in a Heritage
Foundation speech, We need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate (Bendery).
A New York Times obituary for Senator Helms highlighted his hard-edged
conservatism, but also his knack for taking on anyone, even leaders of his own party,
who strayed from his idea of ideological purity. Ironically, President Reaganone of

Ted Cruzs two heroescalled Helms a thorn in my side (Holmes). Cruz and Helms
share policy preferences but not electoral goals; Helms served for three decades in the
Senate, while Cruz will spent less than three years in the Senate before running for
president (Broder). Ideologically similar, the two sharply differ in electoral ambition,
with Helms more aligned with the Senate man that Huitt describes.
Finally, after Cruz appeared on NBCs Meet the Press in 2013, Washington Post
editorial columnist Richard Cohen argued that Cruz is most like [Joseph] McCarthy in
his clever use of Obamacare as a cemetery ghoul (Cohen). While an imperfect
comparison, Cruz and McCarthy found a Senate niche through firm single-issue
opposition. Whereas McCarthy made his career on communism, Cruz owes his rise to
relentless opposition to Obamacare. Again, however, McCarthy did not use his policy
interests as a means to reach higher office, while Cruzs anti-Obamacare issue stance led
to no substantive outcome other than catapulting Cruz onto the national stage. Cruz is
much more methodical, rational and controlled than Joe McCarthya Roman Catholic
and alcoholic who drank himself to death two-and-a-half years after being censured by
the Senate (Senate Resolution 301; The History Channel).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Most politicians dream of being presidentMcConnell dreams of being majority
- Former chief of staff Billy Piper (MacGillis 132)
Politics is [McConnells] avocation, vacation, vocation, all three.
- Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming (Get Mitch)
In Congress: The Electoral Connection, David Mayhew (1973) asks whether
there is a connection between what [congressmen] do in office and their need to be
reelected (Mayhew 37). Mitch McConnell, as pragmatic as Ted Cruz is principled,

personifies this statement. When President Obama took office in 2009, Washington Post
columnist George Will called McConnell Washingtons most important Republican and
second-most consequential elected official (Get Mitch). Given that McConnell now
occupies the most powerful seat in the U.S. Senate, what can one learn from the new
Majority Leaders past to understand his current decision-making?
While in college at the University of Louisville, McConnell learned to campaign
(MacGillis 2). He ran three unsuccessful campaignsfor president of the freshman
class, student senate and student council of the College of Arts and Sciencesbefore a
successful second run for president of the student council during his junior year (2, 7). A
former pollster aptly describes a 36-year-old McConnells first political job as Republican
executive of Jefferson County, Kentucky: We didnt have to deal with the ego. Mitch
was the best client to have...We were absolutely starting from scratch. We could build
something just the way we wanted, with no pushback (2).
With the Republican Party wavering between Barry Goldwater conservatism and
a more moderate vision in the early 1960s, Mitch McConnell stood with the latter.9 The
former champion of abortion rights activistswhose campaign for county judge in
Louisville supported legalizing collective bargaining rights for public employees and an
endorsement from the AFL-CIOnow finds himself a vehement opposition to universal
healthcare, abortion rights and campaign finance regulation (MacGillis 4, 19; Get Mitch).
While Majority Leader McConnells strategy in the 113th Congress appeared to be one of

9 In a National Public Radio interview with Alec MacGillis on The Cynic, MacGillis stated, he is, of
course, during the time of Barry Goldwater's 1964 nomination to the party as coming from the conservative
wing, but there was still a very, very strong moderate contention of the party. And Mitch McConnell was
completely on that side of the line.

total obstruction, the purpose of this section is to show that McConnell calculates every
action with the next election in mind.10
For the protean Republican who former Republican colleague Arlen Specter
believed would make no pretenses about subordinating policy to politics, McConnell
adapts to his electorate and fundraising base (Neumann 89). One must view the
Constitution as a document adaptable to condition of contemporary society, a young
McConnell announced in a 1964 editorial urging Republicans to adopt a strong national
and state civil rights legislation (MacGillis 10). The former head of the Kentucky chapter
of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) once called McConnell, as head of
Jefferson County, one of the best elected officials I ever worked with in terms of dealing
with [abortion rights].Mitch understood procedural ways to stop legislation, and thats
what he did (21). However, McConnell became firmly pro-life when running for his
congressional seat for the U.S. in 1980, voting to block Medicaid funding for abortions in
cases of rape or incest (31).
To clearly understand the direct line between McConnells actions and electoral
interests, consider campaign finance reform. As a 31-year-old in 1973, McConnell wrote
an editorial to the Louisville-based Courier-Journal calling for truly effective campaign
finance reform (MacGillis 50). The aggressive proposal called to reduce contribution
limits for local Kentucky races from $2,500 to $300, with all donations disclosed and
overall spending limits (49). McConnells op-ed lambasted a status quo in which [m]any
qualified and ethical persons aretotally priced out of the election marketplace (54).
Even in Congress twenty years later, McConnell wrote that soft money, or thenunregulated individual contributions to national political parties, should be banned and
10 Personal communication with Alec MacGillis, January 7, 2015.

that [a]ll campaign spending should be on the top of the table where voters can see it
(54). As recent as 1996, McConnell supported basic disclosure of campaign
contributions, stating, Disclosure is the best disinfectant, and I think the maximum
amount of disclosure is exactly what we need (74).
However, recentand rationalelectoral calculations left McConnell a virulent
opponent of campaign finance regulation. As McConnells close former Republican
colleague Richard Lugar (IN) reflected, Pragmatically, hes come to the conclusion that
raising money is tremendously important for his own success (64). The shrewd
McConnell has tailored his views on free speech to support his campaign finance stance.
Discussing a vote to ban flag burning in 1995 that McConnell had switched his previous
stance on to support at the final minute, Alec McGillis of The New Republic argued that
the flip-flop demonstrated McConnells willingness to surrender a perennial crowdpleasing issue to strengthen his case for arguing against limits on campaign financing
(62). When Democrats proposed the DISCLOSE Act in 2010 to require large
organizations to publically publish donor lists, it failed to reach cloture by one vote due to
a filibuster led by then-Minority Leader McConnell (Breckel; MacGillis 75). Most
recently during the 2014 lame-duck negotiations surrounding the omnibus appropriations
legislation, then-Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell found a mutual
interest in increasing party control through campaign finance. The provision increased
the power of parties in elections by allowing an individual donor to give up to $324,000
to fund party operationsa 30 percent increase from the previous $97,000 limit
(Blumenthal). Assuming that a wealthy donor seeks to spend $500,000 to influence an
election, McConnell and Reid have an incentive to funnel as much as possible towards

parties rather than outside groups. McConnells thirty-year Senate tenure makes him the
most well-versed to use the institution and its procedures to his electoral advantage.
Majority Leader McConnell infamously stated that his goal was for President
Obama to be a one-term president. (Kessler) This paper assumes that strategy to obstruct
President Obama no longer reflects McConnells electoral interests. Former Senator
Robert Bennett (R-Utah) remembered a conversation with McConnell following Obamas
2008 election. According to Bennett, who once explained that [e]very answer
[McConnell] gives is geared toward strategy within the Senate, McConnell said:
We have a new president with an approval rating in the seventy percent area. We
do not take him on frontally. We find issues where we can win, and we begin to
take him down, one issue at a time. We create an inventory of losses, so its
Obama lost on this, Obama lost on that. And we wait for the time where the image
has been damaged to the point where we can take him on. We recognize the
American peopleeven those who (do?) not approve of him want him to have
success, are hopeful (Green; MacGillis 97).
Balkin explains that, after witnessing how Democratic Senator Ted Kennedys (MA)
collaboration on the landmark No Child Left Behind (NCLB) education bill inadvertently
contributed to Republican President George W. Bushs 2004 re-election, McConnell
altogether rationally concluded that bipartisanship would not serve his interests (1170).
After all, in 2009, bipartisanship would confirm the newly elected presidents postpartisan inauguration pledge to end the petty grievances and false promises, the
recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics
(Lizza). Therefore, McConnell engaged in a calculated strategy to slowly degrade
Obamas perception as a post-partisan president:
We worked very hard to keep our fingerprints off of these proposals because we
thought correctly, I think that the only way the American people would know
that a great debate was going on was if the measures were not bipartisan. When
you hang the bipartisan tag on something, the perception is that differences have
been worked out, and theres a broad agreement that thats the way forward.

Within this framework, it was entirely reasonable for McConnell and his caucus
to systematically oppose any measure that could bolster President Obamas post-partisan
image. It worked: a 2012 memo by Gallups Jeffrey Jones called Obamas ratings
consistently among the most polarized for a president in the last 60 years (Blake and
Cillizza). President Obamas early 2014 announcement that Ive got a pen, and Ive got
a phone, articulated a willingness to bypass Congress through executive action that the
post-partisan president would never have conceded five years earlier. Whereas
McConnell once calculated that Republicans, according to Balkin, have nothing to gain
from collaborating in anything that [President Obama] could then claim as an
achievement, an opportunity for credit claiming now exists for the Majority Leader and
his Republican Senate majority (1170). While the same cannot be said for some in his
caucus, the politically adroit McConnell notices that unified intransigence is no longer
the only strategy to 1.) Maintain Senate control past 2016 and 2.) Make Americans
comfortable electing a Republican president in 2016 (1191).

IV. The Institutional Game: Senate Procedure and Strategy in the 114th Congress
Barbara Sinclair (2006) describes the United States Senate as a peculiar
combination of conflict and cooperation, of aggressive exploitation of the rules and of
accommodation (Sinclair). Therefore, this section proceeds in three parts. First,
independent of its modern perception as a dysfunctional institution, I summarize the
Senates function and recent procedural innovations. Second, I introduce two procedural
dynamics that Majority Leader McConnell should consider to pursue the three basic
activitiescredit claiming, position taking, and advertisingpresented in Mayhews The
Electoral Connection. Finally, I conclude with a few procedural options for Majority
Leader McConnell to pursue his electoral and policy goals in the 114th Congress.
Time is the central commodity of the U.S. Senate; nearly every virtue and vice of
the institution derives from this fact. Senator Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), the longestserving senator in U.S. history, often paraphrased Thomas Jefferson to argue that the
Senate is intended to cool the cup of coffee from the House (Smith, location 2510).
Two featuresunlimited debate and unrestricted amendmentsmake the Senate stand
apart from other parliamentary bodies (Gold, location 105). Two groupspolitical
minorities and individual membershold power disproportionate to their size (location
120). If time is the key Senate resource, the structure of unstructured debate but high
individualism makes time easy for individual members to exploit. This creates a
common resource pool problem, where unchecked access to a resource leads
individuals to overuse the resource to the detriment of the whole (Smith, location

Discussions of Senate power often focus on the minoritys procedural tactics to
exercise disproportionate influence over majoritys agenda. For example, as members of
the minority in the 113th Congress, Mitch McConnell and Ted Cruz notably engaged in
successful and unsuccessful attempts to manipulate Senate rules. However, I believe that
a more interesting dynamic exists within the majority party in the 114th Congress. While
leading the Senate towards its own policy and electoral goals, Majority Leader
McConnell must grapple with four members of his caucus with presidential ambitions
Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida), and Lindsay Graham
(South Carolina) (Sabato). To varying degrees, each has an interest in using the
individualistic Senate as a platform to differentiate himself from the others and from the
Republican Party. In contrast to the Republican Partys affirmative call to govern in 1994
based on the Contract with America, the Republican Party in 2014 ran on opposition to
Democratic rule to become the governing party (Brooks).
Procedural knowledge is power in the U.S. Senate. As congressional scholar
Martin Gold writes, Individuals knowing procedureand willing to employ itcan
wield influence far beyond their single vote (Gold, location 61, 120). I will focus on
two procedural dynamics that Majority Leader McConnell can exploit in the 114th
1.) The Senate Syndrome, defined by Smith (2014) as the combination of
minority-motivated obstruction and majority-imposed restrictions, affects
Majority Leader McConnells promise to run the Senate under regular order in the
114th Congress (Smith, location 146). It is in McConnells electoral and policy
interest to restore committee power and, to the extent possible, pass

appropriations bills under regular order rather than through omnibus legislation.
Further, appropriations bills offer Senate Republicans a vehicle to pass riders
or nongermane amendments that prohibit an agency from using the bills funding
to perform a certain action that the legislators opposeto restrict President
Obamas executive branch actions (Location 146).
2.) The majoritarian House of Representatives allows for sweeping partisan progress,
but the filibuster nearly always makes any legislation that passes the Senate an
incremental bipartisan achievement (Rawls 88). Majority Leader McConnells
interest is to present vulnerable Senate Republicansmany in states that will vote
for a Democratic president in 2016as politically palatable for independent
voters. McConnell must pass bipartisan legislation while manipulating procedure
to allow Senate Republicans to choose how conservative they wish to present
themselves to their respective state electorates.
McConnell understands how to manipulate Senate procedure to his advantage and
can exploit procedural rules to pursue his electoral and political goals in the 114th
Congress. Consider the 2014 negotiation during which then-Minority Leader McConnell
and Majority Leader Reid compromised to require fifty, rather than sixty, votes to raise
the debt ceiling. If Republicans opposed the measure, why lower the threshold for
passage? Occurring before the midterm elections, Republicans sought to distance
themselves from Democrats, while linking Democrats to an unpopular Democratic
president. McConnells logic was straightforward: Congress needed to raise the debt
ceiling to avoid default, and rather than force Republican colleagues to vote with
Democrats, a fifty vote threshold would allow Republicans facing a more conservative
primary challenger to safely oppose the measure (Toobin). Senator Cruz, however,

objected and forced some Republican colleagues to cast a politically unpalatable vote to
support the debt ceiling increase (Toobin). This case demonstrates two realities of the
Senate: one maverick senator can alter the leaderships agenda, and procedural rules can
cover or expose individual senators positions.
Current procedure requires that three-fifths of all senatorsor 60 members
affirmatively vote to invoke cloture and end a filibuster (Gold, location 139). One
proposal, suggested by Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley (Oregon) and Tom Udall (New
Mexico), would shift the burden for cloture votes; it would require a uniform 41-member
minority to start and sustain a filibuster rather than a 60-member majority to end one
(Klein). Currently, a Majority Leader wishing to invoke cloture on a filibuster started by
one errant senator must assemble a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to reach the
60-vote threshold. Shifting the responsibility to a unified 41-member minority means
that the minority must find 41 no votes, which some argue would prevent the current
practice of delaying bills or nominees for months, holding the vote, and finding that there
were only a dozen or so senators who actually cared enough to block it (Weigel).
Both Senate leaders had lukewarm reactions when Democrats proposed the 41member filibuster proposal in the 113th Congress, but Majority Leader McConnell would
see three benefits from pushing this reform. First, the reform benefits the majority party;
as Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein wrote, The minority would have to supply the
41 votes required to keep a filibuster going, while the majority wouldnt have to do much
of anything (Klein). Second, McConnell could fulfill his campaign promise to make the
Senate work again while forcing the same Democrats who proposed the reform to now
block itsimply because Democrats no longer enjoy majority status. Even if McConnell

perceived a negative public response to this proposal, taking action around June 2015
would coincide larger news issues such as a major Supreme Court ruling and presidential
announcements. Finally, it forces more extreme Republicans like Ted Cruz to cast
difficult votes by affirmatively joining Democrats to sustain opposition to McConnellsupported measures. It would tighten Majority Leader McConnells grip over the most
conservative members of his caucus, which McConnell could frame to Democrats as a
willingness to stand up to his extremist wing.
In fact, McConnell has an interest in using far-right members like Cruz as
bargaining tools with Senate Democrats. Some believe that far-right senators like Cruz
only caused McConnell significant headaches in the 113th Congress. Alec McGillis,
author of The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell, saw a different
dynamic where Cruz served as a useful bargaining chip for McConnell.11 Minority
Leader McConnell could use Cruz as leverage in negotiations on the fiscal cliff and debt
ceiling to say, Look, you better give us what we want, or Ted Cruz will win. Now in the
majority, it behooves McConnell to create political costs for Cruz to pursue his own
agenda (through forcing him to join Democrats in opposition) and to use far-right
senators as leverage to negotiate with Democrats. As McConnell attempts to pursue
incremental bipartisan agreements on issues such as tax, trade and immigration, Cruz
can offer divergent amendments to pursue his own electoral interests. According to
MacGillis, even an isolated Cruz can be a pain in the neck.12
Further, Majority Leader McConnells decision-making on the Keystone XL
Pipeline Approval Act (S.1), illustrates how McConnell can simultaneously pursue
11 Personal conversation with Alec MacGillis, January 7, 2015
12 Personal conversation with Alec MacGillis, January 7, 2015

electoral and policy goals through the open amendment process. Before becoming
Majority Leader, McConnell pledged to restore the Senate to regular order and allow
open amendments on legislation (Mimms). An open amendment process under regular
order allows minority members to propose amendments and, subsequently, forces
members of the majority party to vote on them. These minority amendments often force
the majority party to cast difficult votes and Harry Reid, as Majority Leader, often
restricted the minoritys ability to contribute to the amendment process by using his
privilege of first recognition to fill the amendment tree (Crespin). The practice allows
the leader toavoid the exposure of divisions within his party to public view (Smith,
location 2862). This notion aligns with Cox and McCubbins (2007) procedural cartel
model, in which the majority seeks party unity to get votes on legislation it seeks to
pass and block votes on legislation it wants to avoid (in Smith, location 4728).
A byproduct of this model, exemplified in the 113th Congress, is that voting
records become extremely partisan if only majority-proposed bills and amendments
receive votes. By not allowing controversial votes, Senate Democrats in the 2014midterm elections built partisan voting records and could not distinguish themselves from
unpopular national Democrats like Reid and President Obama. Exposed to criticism that
their voting records supported President Obama over 96 percent of the time, vulnerable
Democrats in purple states enjoyed no political cover (Lesniewski). 13
With the Keystone XL pipeline bill already poised for Senate passage,
accomplishing McConnells policy goal, McConnell manipulated the procedural process
to accomplish his electoral interests as well. In the first three weeks of 2015, Majority
13 Roll Call continues, Indeed, all of the most vulnerable Democrats voted with President Obama at least
96 percent of the time on the 120 votes on which Obama has urged a yes or no vote.

Leader McConnell permitted 25 proposed amendments10 more than Harry Reid
allowed throughout 2014and Democrats proposed 16. McConnell boasted, This is the
way the Senate ought to work, fulfilling his campaign promise for a more open
amendment process (Drucker). According to The Wall Street Journal, McConnell even
allowed the Senate to cast its first votes in at least eight years on climate change, putting
lawmakers on the record about the politically contentious issue (Harder).
Two amendments in particular deserve further study. The first was proposed by
Democratic Senator Brian Schatz (Hawaii) to include language in the Keystone XL bill
that climate change is real and human activity significantly contributes to climate
change (Foran). All but five Senate Republicans voted against the measure; two of them
Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire) will be running for re-election
in 2016 in blue states (Harder). Republican Senator John Hoeven (North Dakota)
proposed a second amendment that only removed the word significantly from the
previous amendments language, which received 15 Republican votes. The text human
activity contributes to climate change would have been included in the Keystone XL,
but Senators David Vitter (Louisiana) and Hoeven and switched to No to kill the
amendment (Freedman). As David Drucker of the Washington Examiner explains,
permitting votes on Democratic proposals is a win-win-win decision for Republicans.
Drucker explains that the overall Republican-tilted bill passes, Republicans uphold their
campaign promise to open up the Senate, and blue-state Republicans have an
opportunity to vote with their states and show independence from their party. In 2016,
Republicans must defend 24 of 34 Senate seats, many in states that Obama carried in
2012. By allowing votes on Democratic amendments, Senate Republicans can choose

how much they wish to align or distance their roll call voting from the Republican
Assembling A Governing Coalition
One option for Majority Leader McConnell is to identify an informal, bipartisan
governing coalition for the 114th Congress. Assuming unanimous Republican support,
McConnell needs at least six Democrats to reach a sixty-vote supermajority; assuming
unanimous Democratic opposition, McConnell can only afford to lose three Republican
votes and still maintain an outright majority. Adding two members as a buffer for each
creates a thirteen-member coalition of eight Democrats and five Republicans.
The Keystone XL legislation, passed after extensive votes in an open amendment
process, was the first major legislation passed under Majority Leader McConnells
restored Senate. Therefore, to identify this coalition, I first analyzed the 48 distinct
votes taken on S. 1 (Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act), from the cloture motion to
proceed on 1/12/2015 to the motion on 3/4/2015 to override President Obamas veto.
Second, I created individual variables that listed percentages of how often senator voted
with Majority Leader McConnell, Senator Cruz and Senator Dianne Feinstein (DCalifornia). Feinstein, a stalwart and senior Democrat, served as a proxy for the
Democratic leader as she missed no votes during Minority Leader Reids absence.
Missed votes were coded as missing to create a true measure of McConnell support. This
controls for cases such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) who, when present, voted
with McConnell on 96.1 percent of the time. Since Rubio missed 22 Keystone votes, this
numberleft unchangedwould indicate that Rubio only voted with McConnell 52.1%
of the time.

Given the focus on the 2016 senatorial and presidential elections, I compared the
percent agreement with McConnell (the Republican proxy) and Feinstein (the Democratic
proxy) to the senators election year (2014, 2016 or 2018). Since independent Senators
Angus King (I-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) caucus with the Democratic Party,
I include them in the Democratic sample. I wanted to understand whether a statistically
significant relationship existed between a senators election and willingness to vote with
the majority leader. Two senators with re-elections in 2016, Barbara Mikulski (DMaryland) and Barbara Boxer (D-California), announced their retirement and were not
included in the 2016 sample (Lerner). The column variation calculates the difference in
percent agreement with McConnell and Feinstein between the election years that the
party caucus was most and least likely to agree with them. Senate Democrats facing
reelection in 2018 were most likely to vote with Majority Leader McConnell (19.25%);
those elected in 2014 were least likely to vote with McConnell (12.82%), with a total
variation of 6.43%. Since some literature on the Senate suggests that senators respond to
electoral pressures only in the last year or two before re-election, additional research is
needed to prove that senators with 2018 re-elections are directly responding to electoral
pressures four years in advance.

% agreed with


% agreed


Among Senate Democrats (n=44)

Election Year
Among Senate Republicans (n=54)
Election Year



Overall, the average Republican agreed with their Majority Leader on 90.70% of
votes, while the average Democrat voted with McConnelland presumably with the
Republican establishmenton 16.66% of votes.14 While Democrats agreed with their
leaders position 2.02% more than Republicans agreed with McConnell, Democratic
support for Senator Feinstein saw a standard deviation 1.5 times that of Republicans.
When grouped by election year, Democratic support for their effective leader varied by
23 times more than Republican support for the Majority Leader. Senate Democrats were
5.67% more likely than Senate Republicans to vote with the opposing parties leader;
Democrats grouped by election year varied in their support for the opposing party at a
level five times that of Republicans (6.43% vs. 1.84%). These results suggest that
election year might have had some effect on Democratic support for McConnell on these
Did senators election year affect Democrats likelihood of supporting Majority
Leader McConnell on the Keystone XL legislation? While election year had no
statistically significant impact among Republicans, Democrats with re-elections in 2018
were, to a statistically significant degree (p-value=0.0231), more likely than Democrats
without a 2018 re-election to cross the aisle and vote with McConnell. Likewise, to a
statistically significant degree (p-value=0.0375), Democrats with re-elections in 2018
were less likely than Democrats without a 2018 re-election to vote with Senator Feinstein
and rank-and-file Democrats on a given Keystone vote.
Further, Democrats elected in 2014 were less likely than Democrats not elected in
2014 to vote with McConnell (17.42% vs. 12.82%); a means-comparison t-test indicates
a strong but not quite statistically significant difference (p-value= 0.1201). One could
14 Note: This reflects the mean, not median, statistic.

argue that Democratic senators likelihood to vote with McConnell reflects more on the
circumstances of their previous election than with their future one, or that Democrats
with elections in 2018 are more conservative than those elected in 2014 or 2016.
However, using Heritage Action score as a rough proxy for conservatism,15 a meanscomparison t-test shows no statistically significant relationship between Heritage Action
score and re-election year among Senate Democrats. Therefore, quantitative evidence
suggests that McConnell could target Democrats with 2018 elections in his electoral
strategy. Five of the six Democrats most likely to vote with McConnelland 12 of the
14 most likelyhave re-elections in 2018. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) and
Mark Warner (D-Virginia) are the other two. Bennet and Warner are both moderate
swing-state senators elected by narrow margins, winning by 1.2 percent and 0.8 percent,
respectively (Warner).
Especially since no similar effect exists for Republicans with an election in 2018
(p=0.4784), why might Democrats with 2018 re-elections be persuadable? First,
presidential voters are younger, less affluent, and more diverse, suggesting a more
Democratic electorate (Bouie). According exit polls conducted by the Wall Street Journal
in the two most recent midterm elections, voters are older, whiter, wealthier, and much
more conservative than the public at large (Bouie; WSJNewsGraphics). Independent of
who controls the Oval Office, evidence from the last two midterm elections suggests that
2018 Democrats should expect a more unfavorable election than the presidential
electorate that voted for them in 2012. Second, this effect reflects Democratic confidence
in the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Assuming Clinton
15 The correlation value between Heritage Action and percent agreement with Senator Cruz is .9298. The
correlation value is .9278 for Senator McConnell.

wins the presidency in 2016, Senate Democrats should expect an unfavorable electorate
in the 2018 midterm elections. Since President Harry Trumans first midterm election in
1946, the party of an elected first-term president has lost an average of 2.3 Senate seats in
the presidents first midterm election.16 17 Worse for Democrats, the last five elected
Democratic presidents lost an average of 5.2 seats, including an average of seven
between Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.18 Anticipating a Democratic
presidential victory in 2016 and an unfavorable midterm in 2016, Senate Democrats
might seek to distance themselves from a Democratic president in the 2018 midterms.
Overall, Majority Leader McConnell is well served to target Democrats slated for reelection in 2018 in his informal governing coalition.

% Agreed with McConnell on Keystone


Majority Leader McConnells informal governing coalition should include these eight
Democrats: Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Claire
16 Note: This does not include the 1966 midterm elections under President Lyndon Johnson, who became
president upon President John Kennedys assassination.
17 Original research using Mid-Term Election data from The American Presidency Project, found at
18 Ibid.

McCaskill (Missouri), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Mark Warner (Virginia), Jon Tester
(Montana), Tom Carper (Delaware), and Bob Casey (Pennsylvania). I explicitly choose
not to include Senators Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine for a few reasons. A January
2015 POLITICO exclusive on Hillary Clintons presumptive presidential campaign
identified Senators Bennet and Kaine as dominating the early speculation for Vice
President (Allen). Further, Michael Bennet will likely run for re-election in 2016 in
Colorado, a swing state that voted for President Obama in the last two presidential
elections but recently elected Republican Cory Gardner over incumbent Democrat Mark
Udall (Healy). The New York Times Jack Healy also reported after Gardners 2014
victory, Ad after ad by Republicans and outside conservative groups declared that
[incumbent] Mr. Udall voted with the president 99 percent of the time. If Republicans
seek to challenge Bennet in 2016 and employ a similar Obama Yes-Man strategy to
defeat him, Majority Leader McConnell should not make Bennet appear more bipartisan
by including him in an informal governing coalition. Finally, while not included in the
eight-Democrat coalition, Senators Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota), Bill Nelson (Florida),
Martin Heinrich (New Mexico), and Angus King (Maine) are also persuadable Democrats
based on the 48 Keystone XL votes.
Which five Republicans should McConnell include in his governing coalition?
While election year did not appear to influence Republican agreement with McConnell
on Keystone, it is valuable to consider which Republicans were most and least likely to
back McConnell. Included here are the twelve most likely and thirteen least likely
Republicans to agree with McConnell on the Keystone XL legislation.
Most Likely to Agree with McConnell on Keystone XL legislation



% Agreed with McConnell


Least Likely to Agree with McConnell on Keystone XL Legislation, Compared to

Agreement with McConnell in the 113th Congress
% Agreed with
113th Congress

How much more

likely to support
McConnell on



% Agreed with
114th, Keystone






Average among these






The firebrand Senator Ted Cruz voted with McConnell less frequently than 40
Republicans and was the 13th least likely to support McConnell. While Heritage Action
scores Cruz as 95 of 100 (trailing only Utah Senator Mike Lee as the most conservative
senator), Cruz was less likely than the more moderate Arizona Senator John McCain

(score of 49) and more likely than Rand Paul (score of 93) to vote with the majority
leader on Keystone.
Further, based on the Keystone votes, Majority Leader McConnells informal
governing coalition should include Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Kelly
Ayotte (New Hampshire), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), and
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina). Four of these five showed significant drop-offs in
support for McConnell on Keystone relative to their support in the 113th Congress. All
supported McConnell on less than 80% of votes (the average was 90.72% among
How should Senator Cruz factor into McConnells calculus? For example, while
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul agreed with McConnell on over 85% of Keystone votes, he
agreed with Cruz on 10.33% more votes than McConnellthe largest swing towards
Cruz of any senator. If McConnell is concerned about Cruzs influence, McConnell
should court Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham (8.15%), and Mike Lee (8.03%) into his
governing calculus. However, Cruz may no longer be a perceived threat to Republicans
within the Senate either due to Cruzs belief that working through the Senate serves his
presidential ambitions or to his diminished influence as a non-senior majority senator
without minority procedural tactics (Chabot).
For example, Cruz vehemently opposed President Obamas executive action,
announced in November 2014, to offer temporary legal status to millions of illegal
immigrants (Ehrenfreund). Cruz coined the action executive amnesty, and in a
December 2014 press release proposed two constitutional means of opposition: the
Senate should halt confirmations for non-national security positions and use the power

of the purse (Cruz Press Release). Republicans pursued the first by delaying a
nomination vote on Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch, and attempted the second
by refusing to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unless the Democrats
removed funding for President Obamas immigration executive action. However, one
freshman senator, speaking anonymously, stated, I look at the freshmen, and I dont see
a lot of Ted Cruzes (Bolton). As Brookings Institution scholar Sarah Binder argued in a
National Public Radio interview, a Cruz-led coalition of one or fivecan gum up the
works for a little bit of time, but its very hard to grind the Senate to a halt (Chang).
While Cruz called Lynchs nomination dangerous, he conceded that the
decision to consider Lynchs nomination is one the majority leader is going to have to
make (Lesniewski). Rather than delay the DHS bill with President Obamas executive
action or fight Loretta Lynchs confirmation, Cruz settled for a verbal stand against the
actions (Dennis). Given Cruzs interest for Republicans to take strong positions rather
than govern before 2016, he cares more about being right, than about winning and
losing. As Mayhew (1974) explains, We can all point toinstances in which
congressmen seem to have gotten in trouble by being on the wrong side in a roll call vote,
but who can think of one where a member got into trouble by being on the losing side?
(118). Cruz will likely seek non-institutional means to raise his national profile; as
mentioned earlier, Cruz has little interest in marketing the Republican Party as a
governing party before 2016. For example, Elizabeth Drew (1973) discussed how the
ego that motivates members to run for Congress makes them unwilling to accommodate
their views.19 Soon, lawmakers come to learn that a thumping speech is more likely to

19 Found in Mayhew, The Electoral Connection (pg. 118)

attract the attention of the press galleriesthan is quiet work in the corridors to change
national policy.20
Perhaps Ted Cruz realizes how Marco Rubios legislative efforts to promote
bipartisan immigration legislation actually setback his presidential campaign by
potentially alienating Republican primary and caucus voters. It would make sense to
seek power through non-institutional means while taking a low-cost stand on
immigration. Therefore, the important negotiation exists between Cruzs noninstitutional influence and Majority Leader McConnells responsibility to govern. If Cruz
continued to be a major thorn in McConnells side, the majority leader might co-op
potential Cruz allies such as Mike Lee to give them something to lose by voting with
Cruz over the establishment. At least on the DHS immigration bill and Loretta Lynch
nomination, Cruzs actions do not warrant Lees inclusion in McConnells informal
governing coalition.



Agree with


% Agree with
Cruz - % Agree
Keystone 114th




Agree with
Cruz 113th


% Agree with Cruz

vs. - Agree
113th Congress



Change in
Rank from


* This comes from a ranking of all Senators according from most (1) to least (99) likely to vote with Senator Cruz on the 48 Keystone
XL votes.
+ Negative (red) indicates lower agreement with Cruz

Compromise among Party Activists

20 Ibid.


I focused until now on Republican senators willingness to compromise, and wish
to compare Republican and Democratic lawmakers likelihood of crossing the aisle to
party activists willingness to compromise. To accomplish this, I employ the 2012
Convention Delegate Study, a survey sent to all delegates to the 2012 Democratic and
Republican national conventions.21 I performed two analyses to understand party
activists willingness to compromise, especially among Republicans.22 The first asked
whether ones party affected ones willingness to compromise or stand firm with the party
regardless of electoral success. The second looked within the Republican Party, asking
whether activists who supported a certain candidate were more or less willing to
compromise with opposing views.
The first question asked to what extent delegates agreed with the statement, The
party should play down some issues if it will improve the chances of winning. I
performed a means-comparison t-test that compared activists who supported each of the
eight Republican presidential candidates relative to all other activists; for instance, if 500
activists were polled, it would compare the 50 who indicated support for former
Congressman Ron Paul to the 450 who supported other candidates. Compared to survey
respondents who indicated support for other candidates, supporters of former
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were the only group that, to agree a statistically
significant level (p-value=0.0000), were more likely to agree that a party should play
down some issues to win. The Romney mean was 2.982 on a four-point (strongly
21 Description for the Convention Delegate Study found at
22 See Layman, and Carsey (2015) for details on the methodology and response rates of the 2012
Convention Delegate Study. Layman, Geoffrey C., and Thomas M. Carsey. 2015. Is Conflict Still
Extending? American Party Polarization in the Twenty-First Century. Paper Presented at the Annual
Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.

disagree to strongly agree) scale, meaning that the mean Romney supporter agreed
with the statement. Supporters of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (mean =
2.471, p-value=0.0823) and former libertarian Congressman Ron Paul (mean=2.11, pvalue=0.000) however, saw statistically significant lower levels of support relative to
supporters of other candidates.23
A second question asked respondents how they felt on a seven-point sliding scale ranging
from 1: elected officials should stand up for their principles no matter what to 7:
Elected officials should compromise with their opponents in order to get things done for
the country. Serving as the most directly related proxy for an activists willingness to
compromise, the question revealed similar results to the first. On average, Democrats
were more willing to compromise than Republicans; the mean Democrat rated 4.782,
while the mean Republican rated 3.50. These results were statistically significant, with a
means-comparison t-test resulting in a p-value of 0.000.
Ron Paul (p-value=0.0000) and Rick Santorum (p-value=0.0122) supporters were
uncompromising to a statistically significant degree. On the other side, Mitt Romney
supporters (p=0.0000) and those who supported someone else (p-value=0.0190) were,
to a statistically significant degree, more likely to view compromise as necessary.
To determine whether affiliations with certain groups influenced ones willingness
to compromise with other beliefs, I compared a 0-100 feeling thermometer for the
following groups with respondents willingness to compromise adapted to a 0 to 1 scale.
A rating of 1 advocates for compromise to get things done, while 0 urged elected
officials to stand up for their principles no matter what. A negative coefficient meant
that respondents with a greater affinity for that group were less willing to compromise,
23 Analysis conducted with means-comparison t-tests.

while greater affinity for groups with positive coefficients were linked to respondents
more willing to compromise with their opponents in order to get things done for the
Christian Fundamentalists
Labor Unions
Big Business
Tea Party
Occupy Wall Street

Std. Err.



While not necessarily an indicator for affiliation with the group (i.e. one can be
favorable to Mormons without being one), those more favorable to Christian
fundamentalists, the Tea Party, and, to a lesser degree, Occupy Wall Street, were less
willing to compromise. Those more favorable to labor unions, big business, and
Mormons were more willing to compromise to get things done.

V. A Negotiation Strategy for Majority Leader McConnell
Given the non-institutional influence that Ted Cruz will exert on the Republican
Party as he runs for president, how can Majority Leader McConnell best use a governing
coalition to pursue his electoral and policy interests in the 114th Congress?
First, non-senior Republican Senators, without the minoritys institutional tools,
will influence the Republican Party through outside means. Ted Cruz in the 113th
Congress showed how a freshman senator could use procedural tactics such as the
filibuster to become the leading anti-Obamacare senator. Assuming that an open letter
addressed to the leaders of Iran as outside the normal role of a U.S. Senator, Republican
Tom Cotton (R-AR), a freshman majority senator in the 114th Congress, chose a noninstitutional tactic to emerge as a leading GOP national security hawk (Sullivan).
Cottons interest was to impede President Obamas ongoing negotiations to reform Irans
nuclear program, whereas Cruzs was to defund President Obamas signature legislation.
To pursue his interest to defund Obamacare, Cruz chose the Senate floor as a
battleground, where he spoke in September 2013 for 21 hours. Not even a filibuster,
Politico noted that the speech was all over [from the beginning] save for the theatrics
(Everett). Cruz established himself as the leading Obamacare opponent on the Senate
floor. On the other hand, Cotton published online an Open Letter to the Leaders of the
Islamic Republic of Iran, signed by 47 Republicans, warning that any agreement reached
would be subject to congressional review and could be revoked by the next president
with the stroke of a pen (Cotton). The Washington Post noted that Cotton was
emerging as a leading foreign policy hawk through harsh rhetoric and confrontational
tactics (Sullivan). The freshman majority senator opted not to use the Senate floor to

achieve his policy goals; rather, he used his Senate position to exert non-institutional
influence on the negotiation process. Overall, both Cruz and Cotton quickly emerged as
leading freshman senators on the national stage, but Cotton, as a non-senior majority
senator, worked outside the Senate rather than through it to achieve his policy interests.
Second, and perhaps given his status as a non-senior majority senator and
presidential candidate, Cruz views working as a Senate insider as antithetical to his
electoral goals. Aligned with the Career politician versus American people narrative,
Cruzs presidential strategy is to run against the Senate. Cruz had the 3rd worst roll call
vote attendance record during the first three months of the 114th Congress, skipping
votes on aid for Israel, student loans and human trafficking, among others (Wright). He
attended three of the 16 public hearings held by the Senate Armed Services Committee
ten less than the average committee member (Wright, 3/31/15; Blade and Kim). Further,
Cruz missed 14 of the 57 votes on the Senates budget, the most of any senator, and was
one of only two Republican senators to oppose the Senate GOP budget. However, Cruz
chose not to fight and the budget will never become law, making his opposition largely
symbolic (Blade and Kim). And when Cruz did choose to use his position as Senator
Cruz rather than Candidate Cruz on a fast-track proposal for the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP), he did so on the heels of growing reports of his neglect to attend key
votes and Armed Services hearings. Moreover, Cruz took his fight to the editorial page
of the Wall Street Journalnot to the Senate floorto make his case (Cruz and Paul).
Despite the recent influx of Republican senators from the 2014 midterms, Cruz still only
ranks 41st in seniority within his party and ostensibly no longer considers the Senate floor
the most useful battleground to exert influence.

Third, while Cruz will likely pursue his goals outside the Senate, Majority Leader
McConnell still must use the Senate to compensate for Cruz, whose electoral strategy
relies on catering to conservative voters, who tend to dominate primaries (Bland).
Cruz bases his electoral strategy on the premise that roughly half of born-again
Christians are not voting; a Republican appeal must therefore avoid the mushy middle
that led to the failed campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney (Gehrke;
Goldmacher). McConnell should seek to counterbalance Cruz, who will likely pull
Republican presidential candidatesand by extension the party itselfto the right. As
Abramowitz (2015) notes, The 2016 electorate will be considerably younger, less white,
and almost certainly more Democratic than the 2014 electorate. McConnell has the
choice to use the Senate to present a different image of the Republican Party. However,
the influx of younger voters, racial and ethnic minorities including Latinos, and
unmarried women into the presidential electorate forces McConnell to present
alternative policy views for Republicans seeking to present themselves as more moderate
in states such as Illinois (Mark Kirk), Wisconsin (Ron Johnson), Pennsylvania (Pat
Toomey), Ohio (Rob Portman), and New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte) (Abramowitz;
Ted Cruzs campaign strategy separates the Republican Party into four lanes
establishment, Tea Party (including conservative activists), evangelicals, and libertarians
(Noonan). According to James Hohmann and Alex Isenstadt of Politico, advisors seek
to establish Cruz as the first choice of tea partyers and become at least the second choice
of evangelicals. This explains why Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University
rather than in Texas (Noonan). If Cruz can reach social conservatives before former

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and 2012 Republican runner-up Rick Santorum,
Cruz might be able to create a base on the right end of the party. Overall, this strategy
allows Cruz to emerge as the main conservative opponent to whoever emerges as the
establishment candidate. Cruzs strategy relies on millions of courageous
conservatives all across America rising up together and in millions of people of faith all
across America coming out to the polls and voting our values (Dionne). Dubious as a
general election strategy, it might be successful in the Republican primary. Using data
from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), Washington Post
columnists Robert Lupton and Christopher Hare found that Cruz is quite ideologically
in-line with Republican voters [in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire,
South Carolina, and Florida]. In fact, his estimated ideological score ismore liberal
thanthe median Republican in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida (Dionne). Ranked
by DW-NOMINATE score, Cruz was the fourth-most conservative senator in the 113th
Congress and seemingly too extreme for the Republican Party, but Lupton and Hare
found that Jeb Bushs score was to the left of at least 70 percent of Republican voters in
the four early states (Lupton and Hare; Voteview). However, this is the score that Bush
would have received had he been in Congress, which he is not.
At the very least, outflanking his Republican rivals will force the entire field right.
For example, in late March 2015, Cruz swiftly and unconditionally supported Indianas
Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) despite homosexual opposition. Presidential
frontrunner and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush initially offered similar support.
However, Bush later shifted his original position to support a revised bill that excluded

discrimination based on sexual orientationa more establishment stance (Haberman and
Given these realities and Ted Cruzs campaign strategy to outflank the right, how
should Majority Leader McConnell pursue his electoral and policy interests? McConnell
has pledged private support to junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for president in 2016,
but will not likely campaign actively for any candidate. McConnell should use the Senate
as a counterweight to a Republican Party that will likely shift to the right during the
primaries (Raju and French). McConnells optimal strategy exposes candidates he
perceives as incapable of winning a general election, while giving the establishment
candidate more moderate policies to champion after winning the primary. Consider how
the average voter in the first four primary states is more ideologically aligned with Cruz
than with Bush. To win the primaries, Bush and other establishment candidates will
likely have to adopt (or at least pay lip service to) more conservative positions. The Tea
Party and conservative activists will likely criticize Bush for his more moderate positions
on the Common Core education standards and immigration reform (Enten). With
McConnells bipartisan legislation as an establishment counterweight to the activistdriven Republican primaries, a Republican nominee hoping to appeal to the general
electorate can champion the Senate legislation as an example of bipartisan reform that
could become law under a Republican president. For example, a Republican presidential
candidate adopting the position during the primaries that human activity does not
significantly contribute to climate change could, as the nominee, tell voters that he or she
would sign the bipartisan Keystone XL bill into law as president. Both Keystone XL and
belief in anthropogenic climate change are environmental stances, but it is far more likely

that a moderate Democrat or independent will support Keystone XL than reject
anthropogenic climate change.
Overall, since Senator Cruz is now Candidate Cruz, Majority Leader McConnell
cannot directly negotiate with Cruz on the Senate floor. Assuming that McConnell does
not view Cruz as an acceptable nominee for the general election, Cruzs presidential
ambition clashes with McConnells interests to elect a Republican president and to
present policies that make the Republican Party appear warm and fuzzy to the
American public. McConnell will have little impact on the Republican presidential
primarybut he does have an interest in protecting vulnerable swing-state Republican
senators in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and others. Conceding
that a crowded Republican primary and activist primary electorate will drive frontrunners
Jeb Bush and Scott Walker to the right, McConnell should primarily focus on passing
bipartisan legislation that a Republican can champion after winning the nomination.
Rooting the Senate schedule in legislation tailored to the eight Democrats and five
Republicans in McConnells informal governing coalition achieves this interest.
If Jeb Bush receives the nomination after a primary that likely forced him farther
right, on each issue stance Bush can choose to either double down on his primary position
or champion bipartisan reform pending or passed by a Republican-controlled in the
Senate. Taking Keystone as an example, the Republican nominee can state, If elected,
only I will sign the bipartisan Keystone XL legislation. At worst, the Democratic
nominee will be forced to the right to adopt a similar stance. Assuming that Senator
Rubios bipartisan legislative work undermines his ability to win the Republican

nomination but would benefit him in a general election, the nominee can adopt bipartisan
positions when it suits his or her electoral interests.
If McConnell focuses legislation that appeals to this thirteen-member bipartisan
coalition, he will stake out establishment positions on legislation that a Republican
presidential nominee can adopt in a general election to distinguish him or herself from a
Democratic challenger. Through support from at least some of the eight Democrats in
McConnells coalition, the Republican nominee counters the public perception that
Republicans are unwilling to govern. Further, none of the eight Democrats in
McConnells coalition have reelections in 2016 (seven will be reelected in 2018 and one,
Warner, was re-elected in 2014). Therefore, McConnell does not explicitly offer political
cover to a Democrat such as Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, who seeks re-election in
Why is this strategy necessary? After Mitt Romney secured a coveted
endorsement from then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush during the 2012 Republican
presidential primary, senior campaign advisor Eric Fehrnstrom now-infamously discussed
how Romney would change his strategy in the general election. Fehrnstrom remarked, I
think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changesIts almost like
an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again (Cohen).
McConnell presents the Republican nominee with a menu of bipartisan issue
stances, from which the nominee can choose a few. The candidate can maintain some
non-establishment iconservative stances, while starting over by adopting more moderate
stances on other issues in the general election. Because the Republican Party has already
staked out a position on the issue, few will question the Republican nominee agreeing

with the GOP position in Congress, especially one with bipartisan support. Moreover, the
nominee could invoke Ronald Reagan in response to far-right opposition, quoting
Reagans notion of compromise: I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than
noneI have not retreated from what was our original purposeI [will] come back and I
[will] ask for more the next time around (Rickert). In sum, McConnell uses the Senate
as an establishment counterbalance, creating a menu of bipartisan and actionable issue
stances for an eventual Republican nominee.

VI. Conclusion

On April 14, the Senate passed a historic $210 billion Medicare reform bill to end a
two-decade-old practice known as the doc fix (Frieden; Sullivan and Ferris). Of the
$210 billion, only $70 billion was paid for. Calling it a milestone for physicians, and for
seniors and people with disabilities, President Obama stated that he will be proud to
sign it into law (Sullivan and Ferris ). Majority Leader McConnell boasted, Its another
reminder of a new Republican Congress thats back to work. Minority Leader Reid and
Senate Democrats offered amendments that addressed abortion language and extended a
two-year reauthorization of the Childrens Health Insurance Program to four years. Both
Democratic amendments failed (DeBonis). The final Senate tally on the $210 billion
doc fix legislation was 92 to 8. The eight outliers objecting, for the most part, to the
fact that the legislation was not paid for. Senator Ted Cruz was one of the eight. Cruz
released in a statement that the doc fix, which the Congressional Budget Office
estimates will add $141 billion to the deficit through 2025, must be fully paid for,
further lamenting that the legislation institutionalizes and expands Obamacare policies
that harm patients and their doctors while adding roughly half a trillion dollars to our
long term debt within two decades (DeBonis). Despite some fanfare from Ted Cruz &
Co (a Washington Post headline), McConnell got what a wanted, a long-term fix to a
long-term problem, with overwhelming bipartisan support.
As Senator Cruz takes his fight from the Senate to the presidential campaign trail,
meeting prospective voters in Iowa and New Hampshire while missing votes and
committee meetings, Majority Leader McConnell appears to have found a path to making
the 114th Congress more productive than the previous Democratic-controlled Senate.
While McConnell controls the Senateand to some extent Republicans ability to

maintain control of Congresshis challenge is to effectively shape the Republican Party
from the sidelines in the 2016 presidential election. McConnells role can be to
triangulate the eventual Republican nominee, fresh from wooing conservative activists,
towards a menu of bipartisan issue stances to selectively adopt in the general election.
The Republican nominee chooses ready-made bipartisan legislation to champion in a
general election, showing he or she is capable of governing without being labeled a flipflopper, while standing firm on his or her beliefs on other issue positions. With a tacit
endorsement of junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul for the Republican nomination,
McConnell must influence the Republican Party without choosing its nominee. Watching
from the sidelines during the first three quarters of the presidential contest, McConnell
has an opportunity to enter the game in the fourth quarter and influence the general
election. The Republican nominee can win and, more importantly for McConnell, sign
legislation passed by the Senate starting in 2017.

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