Some senators probably wish it wouldn't come back -- at least for a little while.
In six short weeks since he became the junior Texas GOP senator, the no-nonsense freshman has quickly become a lightning rod -- on issues ranging from guns to Chuck Hagel's nomination for defense secretary -- upending the Senate's conventional ways, in which freshmen typically work quietly to build bridges with their colleagues.
Cruz's sharp-elbowed Senate style underscores the dilemma facing Republicans as they seek a way out of the political wilderness: Rising stars like Cruz, a tea party favorite, are winning elections and GOP primaries. But their no-compromise, firebrand styles could turn off voters eager to see the two parties start making deals.
"I think he's got unlimited potential," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of Cruz. "But the one thing I will say to any new senator -- you're going to be respected if you can throw a punch but you also have to prove you can do a deal."
Just this week, Cruz was rebuked by senior senators like Republican John McCain and Democrat Bill Nelson for what they considered an unfair line of questioning allegedly impugning Hagel's patriotism. He previously ignored requests from Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to refrain from using video clips to question Hagel during his confirmation proceedings. Many were stunned when Cruz was one of just three senators to vote against John Kerry's nomination as secretary of state.
Behind closed doors, some Republican senators report that Cruz, in his stone-cold serious prosecutorial style, speaks at length when it's far more common for freshmen to wait before asserting themselves -- particularly ones who were just sworn in.
And the Texas tea partier was quick to annoy one of the most powerful Senate Democrats, Chuck Schumer, after he engaged in a combative line of questioning with the New Yorker on a recent Sunday talk show, even though senators from opposing parties are typically far more collegial in those settings.
As he's talked up in conservative circles as a possible 2016 presidential candidate, some Hill Republicans believe Cruz has much to learn if he wants to have a successful Senate career.
"It's becoming a trend when you're a new arrival," lamented one Senate Republican who asked not to be named. "They don't get to know the Senate or the other senators; they just start talking. And that takes away from [Cruz's] ability to be an influential legislator."
On the Democratic side, the criticism has been more intense -- particularly in the aftermath of Cruz's sharp questioning of Hagel.
During Hagel's confirmation hearing last month, Cruz used a series of video clips of Hagel being interviewed by Al-Jazeera to suggest the nominee espoused views hostile to Israel. And during a committee vote earlier this week, Cruz criticized Hagel's failure to reveal details of his personal compensation from 2008 to 2010, asking whether North Korean sources may have funneled $200,000 to the defense nominee.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who criticized Cruz over his handling of the Hagel proceedings, was asked by reporters later if it made sense to reach out to Cruz. "I'm not sure it would do any good. Do you [think so]?"
To his admirers, he's doing exactly what he'd promised to do: try to change a stodgy and ineffective chamber, and help lead the GOP back to its more conservative roots.
"I love the guy," said conservative Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), another "no" vote against Kerry who also opposes Hagel. "And he's got the tenacity to stand for something and not back down. That means he's my kind of guy."
"I think he's going to be a superstar," said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Cuban-American and another rising star on the right. "You're already starting to see some of that. He's just smart as a whip."
Cruz declined a request for an interview, citing his lost voice after suffering from a cold. But in response to written questions, Cruz was unapologetic.
"I made promises to the people of Texas that I would come to Washington to shake up the status quo, to fight for conservative principles and to lead a concerted and meaningful effort to end the unsustainable spending, deficits and debt that have been propagated, unfortunately, by members of both parties," Cruz said.
And he disputed assertions he was impugning Hagel's character, saying he's been focused squarely on the nominee's policy positions and the changes in the former Nebraska senator's stances on key national security issues.
"Of course comity is important, but comity does not mean avoiding the truth concerning a nominee's policy record," Cruz wrote in an email.
Cruz is quickly gaining influence in the Senate GOP leadership circles as well. Texas's senior senator, John Cornyn, the chamber's No. 2 Republican, is aligning himself closely with Cruz as he prepares for his own 2014 reelection campaign, and he even joined the freshman in voting against Kerry's nomination. On Thursday, Cornyn defended Cruz against questions that his inquiries against Hagel were out of bounds.
And other Republican leaders were quick to say it's not surprising that Cruz has ruffled some feathers in his early days as a senator.
"Obviously, when you shake things up a little bit, that gets people's attention," said South Dakota's John Thune, the No. 3 Senate Republican. "But I give him credit for doing that."
Cruz, 42, quickly rose to prominence in Texas legal circles and became the Lone Star State's solicitor general before running for the Senate last year. In that race, Cruz pulled off an upset when he defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the GOP primary before skating to victory last November.
With the help of Cornyn, Cruz landed key seats on powerful committees -- including Armed Services and Judiciary -- giving him a prominent voice in major debates, including immigration, gun control and defense policy. On immigration, he has staked out a more conservative stance than a group of eight senators, including Rubio, seeking a bipartisan deal. Republicans in the group are eager to improve their standing with Hispanic voters, but Cruz is pushing a tougher line.
Cruz said he had "deep concerns" with the pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants under consideration by the group, calling it "profoundly unfair" to legal immigrants. On gun control, Cruz drew headlines when he personally urged the heads of major banks and gun manufacturers to relocate to Texas after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to impose tough new restrictions after a wave of violence in the city.
"Your continued anti-gun crusade may well cause some to wonder if the interests of the citizens of Chicago are being sacrificed in pursuit of a partisan agenda," Cruz told Emanuel in an unusual letter, calling the mayor's efforts a "bullying campaign."
But it's his attack-dog posture and sharp questioning of witnesses at Senate hearings -- particularly during the Hagel proceedings -- that have drawn the most attention.
Ahead of a party-line committee vote endorsing Hagel's nomination earlier this week, Cruz raised the prospect to his fellow senators that Hagel may have been compensated by "extreme or radical groups."
Nelson responded sharply, attacking Cruz for going "over the line" in questioning the standing of a decorated war veteran. McCain sided with Nelson. And Levin later called it "inappropriate."
"All I can say is that I think the appropriate way to treat Sen. Hagel is to be as tough as you want to be, but don't be disrespectful or malign his character," McCain told reporters later.
McCaskill said: "He was engaging in innuendo, and it was terribly unfair."
On Thursday, Graham argued Cruz wasn't being unfair to Hagel but that he feared the Texas Republican's questions about the sources of the former Nebraska GOP senator's income would create a new and difficult standard for future nominees.
"You want to attract people from the private sector to come up here and serve in government," Graham told POLITICO. "If you change the standard right in the middle, I think you need to give people some notice to do that."
Not everyone has been quick to criticize Cruz.
Inhofe and Cornyn came to the freshman's defense and said it was well within Cruz's right to seek more information about Hagel.
"I've heard nothing that questions Sen. Hagel's patriotism," Cornyn said Thursday. "He is a patriot."
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