The GOP "Old Guard" in the Senate Sunday pushed back against outspoken conservative critics, avoiding direct attacks on Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but making it clear his recent renegade actions are unwelcome in the upper chamber.
Without saying a word, the Republican conference sent a powerful message to Cruz and other conservatives like Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, by not backing their efforts to add amendments to a "must-pass" highway spending bill.
"Deliberation and reasoned judgment require an atmosphere of restraint, an atmosphere of thoughtful disagreement," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who serves as the Senate pro tempore and is the longest-serving GOP lawmaker, said in a floor speech Sunday. "Deliberation without decorum is not deliberation at all. It is bickering. And bickering, Mr. President, is beneath this body."
Hatch delivered much of the unofficial censure Sunday, criticizing Cruz for his Senate floor speech Friday where he accused Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of 'flat-out' lying about the highway bill.
Hatch issued a general reminder to all lawmakers that it is against the rules to accuse another senator of "unworthy" conduct, before speaking at length about what he described as a breakdown of Senate floor decorum in recent months, led by Senate newcomers running for president or otherwise looking to advance themselves politically.
"In recent times the Senate floor has too often become a forum for partisan messaging and ideological grandstanding rather than a setting for serious debate," Hatch said. "It has been misused as a tool to advance personal ambitions, a venue to promote political campaigns, and even a vehicle to enhance fundraising efforts, all at the expense of the proper functioning of this body."
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, joined in on the push-back against Cruz, urging fellow Republicans to withhold support for a planned motion by Cruz aimed at forcing a vote on one of his amendments.
Cruz wanted the Senate to take up a provision that would require Iran to recognize Israel as a state and to release four Americans now jailed in the Islamic republic. But senior Republicans urged fellow lawmakers to reject Cruz's motion because it could set off a flood of additional amendments.
"There would be chaos," Cornyn said, adding that a vote in favor of the Cruz motion, "would be a terrible mistake."
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wanted to offer a motion that would force the Senate to vote on an amendment to defund federal dollars from Planned Parenthood, where officials were recently shown on video discussing the price of fetal body parts.
But no lawmaker would second the Cruz or Lee motions to move their amendments, stopping them in their tracks.
The battle isn't over, however. Lee will likely make a motion tomorrow to try to win a vote on an amendment to repeal Obamacare with just 51 votes. A similar amendment was defeated today because it required 60 votes for passage.
Like today's amendments, however, Lee will first require the support of other senators to win a vote on the issue, which he was unable to obtain on Sunday.
"Republicans will have the opportunity resurrect that Obamacare amendment later on in the process, and put it back before the Senate in a manner that only requires a simple-majority vote," Lee said in a statement.