Politics
Sens. Lee, Paul and Cruz. Photos from Getty Images. Sens. Lee, Paul and Cruz. Photos from Getty Images.  

BEDFORD: A House Divided: The Wacko Birds and their war on DC

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Christopher Bedford
Managing Editor

A new breed in town

There is rebellion afoot in the United States Senate. A new breed of conservatives and libertarians are loosed, unconcerned with The New York Times, unfettered by back-bench rank and unintimidated by Washington politics.

Elected over the past three years, Republican Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz have had a meteoric impact in Washington, soaring to grassroots stardom, crashing into the Democratic majority and raining down on the old bulls of the Republican Party.

Dubbed “Wacko Birds” by top Republican John McCain, these three wear the senior Arizona senator’s scorn as a badge of honor.

The Democrats and Republican leadership are furious. And it isn’t simply because these young upstarts exist — it’s because they’re scoring real points. Using the difficult and arcane rules of the Senate to their advantage, they have several victories under their belts that have earned them the respect and support of the conservative grassroots. And despite the ire of both parties — and both parties’ well-connected allies in the press — the Wacko Birds continue undeterred.

Their tradition is an old one. Before their arrival in the Senate, now-Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint held the torch, using the rule book to hold fast on conservative principles and frustrate the leadership of both parties. Before DeMint, Sen. Jesse Helms was the rock, twisting Republican arms and forcing Democrats to publicly vote for their agendas. But today is different. Today, the conservative voice isn’t alone in the wilderness, nor is it even limited to these three: The Wacko Birds are finding allies across the GOP, with even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rushing to their side when politically convenient.

“The opposition to what Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee are doing isn’t much about Republicans vs. Democrats,” a senior Wacko Bird aide told The Daily Caller. “It’s about how Washington does things.”

Among their notable and unexpected (though sometimes merely symbolic) victories this year, the Wacko Birds can count the libertarian-energizing drone debate and the grassroots-energizing gun debate. Next on their list: The debt ceiling debate.

By leading the charge to the Senate floor, demanding difficult votes and utilizing the minority’s filibuster power, the three have thrown a wrench in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Senate steamroller.

“Sen. Paul led the charge on the drones filibuster, and Sen. Cruz was eager to support him, along with Sen. Mike Lee,” Cruz press secretary Catherine Frazier told TheDC. “And on guns legislation, they all announced their intent to filibuster early on in the debate. And now they are taking on the debt ceiling.”

But the three Republicans haven’t only frustrated Reid: Their work to drag bipartisan wheeling-and-dealing into the sunlight has inspired anger, resentment and push back from prominent senators on their own side.