Spending bill fallout: Elizabeth Warren now Ted Cruz of the left?

Elizabeth Warren defied leaders of the Democratic party by lobbying against the spending bill over one specific principle objection – a move pundits are comparing to Ted Cruz's rogue filibuster of Obamacare funding. 

J. Scott Applewhite/File
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday. Senator Warren lobbied against the congressional spending bill based on a principle objection to a provision that loosens trading restrictions of big banks.

Is Elizabeth Warren the Ted Cruz of the left? That’s Friday’s soup du jour of Washington punditry. It’s a tasty subject, too, as Senator Warren (D) of Massachusetts does seem to be using tactics employed by Senator Cruz (R) of Texas in his (successful) effort to shut down the government last year.

Let’s run through the similarities. Warren, like Cruz, opposes a big spending bill on a point of principle. In her case, it’s a provision that loosens trading restrictions on big banks. In his case, it was continued funding for the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”

Warren, like Cruz, has meddled with House politics by urging lawmakers from her party to reject said legislation. That made House passage of the bill much more dramatic than chamber leaders had predicted.

Warren, like Cruz, defied her party’s top elected official with her opposition. (President Obama had to call around Thursday night to whip up support for the bill in question, the so-called cromnibus – a hybrid term referring to both "continuing resolution" and "omnibus" spending bill.)

Most importantly, Warren thrilled the leftward edge of the Democratic Party by speaking out as she did. That’s reminiscent of last year, when Cruz solidified his standing as the hero of the right by mounting a doomed filibuster against continued Obamacare funding.

Warren/Cruz 2016! Or the other way round, Cruz/Warren. It’s the partisan wings against the middle ground.

GOP House member: ‘Elizabeth Warren clearly now a Democratic Ted Cruz. She has set off a stampede among Dems,’ ” tweeted John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times last night.

Ah, comparisons! They’re all invidious, amiright? This one’s got some Democratic top knots in a twist, given the left’s distaste for Cruz.

So we’ll point out some of the ways this match-up doesn’t really hold.

First, Warren’s not really a Cruz-level rogue. She’s worked within the party leadership to get where she is today – which is in the Senate party leadership, as a strategic advisor.

It’s true she bucked President Obama when she spoke about the CRomnibus. But House minority leader Nancy Pelosi opposed the bill too. (Of course, if Representative Pelosi had really, truly wanted the bill defeated, it would have been. But that’s another story.)

Second, Warren shows no signs of going as far as Cruz did last year. Cruz angered Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell by mounting an effort in the Senate to stop the bill’s passage. The resultant government shutdown got laid at the GOP’s door.

Will Warren filibuster the "cromnibus?" Stay tuned.

Finally, Warren’s presidential plans aren’t as advanced as Cruz’s. She keeps saying she won’t run in 2016, though liberals keep begging her to oppose Hillary Rodham Clinton. Meanwhile, Cruz is running now. He may decide he can’t win, and stop. But, at the moment, he’s pretty much a declared non-declared White House hopeful.

In the end the most important takeaway here may be about parties, not individuals. What this shows is that both Democrats and Republicans have a restive faction that considers party leaders sell-outs and is willing to risk a government shut-down to make its point.

Progressives, meet the tea party. In some ways the US political spectrum is a curve, not a straight line. You can travel so far right you become left. And vice versa.

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