Collins versus Cruz on the Senate floor

It should come as no surprise the governing philosophies of Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Ted Cruz are disparate. But what is surprising is the level of candor Collins offered during the most recent escapades of the Texas senator.

Cruz, alongside Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, staged a revolt during votes on the massive government spending bill, forcing senators to linger over the weekend.

Ostensibly, the move was an attempt to “defund” the government’s ability to enforce President Barack Obama’s recent immigration action that will allow more immigrants here illegally avoid deportation and become legal parts of the workforce – both to collect paychecks and pay taxes. But in reality, all the protest accomplished was enable outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, schedule votes on a series of Obama administration nominations that had been bottlenecked.

“I’m not happy with the strategy that [Cruz] has come up with,” Collins, a Maine Republican, said Saturday after chastising Cruz in a private conversation on the Senate floor, according to Politico.

“I think it’s counterproductive and will have the end result of causing nominees who I think are not well-qualified to be confirmed. So I don’t understand the approach that he is taking. I think it’s very unfortunate and counterproductive,” she said.

Traditionally, Senate colleagues are loathe to speak ill of each other, even if they are in the other party. It used to be considered unthinkable that a sitting member would campaign against an incumbent in their own state. But that has gone out the window in more recent election cycles. But it’s a sentiment Collins has continued to value. So her sharp, public words about Cruz are notable.

But lest anyone try and use this as a sign of her moderate inclination, let’s be clear about why she was upset. What she’s frustrated with is how Cruz’s shenanigans allowed Reid to push through stalled Obama nominees. She finds him “counterproductive” because of the progress it allowed Democrats to make, not because she supports the president’s immigration action or believes funding should flow freely to enable it.

The split in philosophy between Cruz and Collins also speaks to something else – the driving motivations of each. Cruz is gunning for a 2016 presidential nomination and a conservative, grassroots army of support. He is determined to remain the champion of the far right, even if it makes him Don Quixote during his Senate tenure. Collins, meanwhile, genuinely wants to broker deals in the Senate to change public policy. That means maintaining relationships on both sides of the aisle and taking advantages of moments of compromise, not exploiting them.

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a breaking news editor for CNN's digital politics team in Washington. Previously, she was a senior news editor with U.S. News and World Report, where she began her three-year tenure as a political writer. She spent much of 2012 on the road covering the presidential campaign in battleground states across the country. Metzler proudly tells all who will listen she hails from the great state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College.