Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are like the Batman and Robin of Senate conservative politics, renegades who buck leadership and upset their own colleagues — that is, if Batman got all the attention and most people outside Gotham didn’t know that Robin existed at all.
The differences between the two politicians are as stark as the contrast between their home states. Cruz, representing Texas, is brash, outspoken and openly considering running for president. Utah’s Lee is soft-spoken, generally better liked by colleagues and less of a staple on cable news than Cruz, who has taken the lead on conservative fights such as opposing the Affordable Care Act and immigration reform. Thanks to their contrasting styles, the two men are viewed differently by the media and by their own colleagues, even though their policy positions are nearly identical.
When the duo gummed up the works of Senate over the weekend, using its arcane procedure against the wishes of the GOP leadership to force a vote on the constitutionality of a $1.1 trillion spending package already approved by the House, Cruz was the one who was most openly chastised by other GOP senators and hounded by the press. But Cruz doesn’t need his colleagues to gain clout with a conservative base that disdains them, and so he has no political incentive to invest in relationships with other senators, according to Senate Republican aides approached for this story. On the other hand, Lee, who harbors no apparent presidential ambitions but will need to win reelection in Utah under new, less favorable GOP primary rules in 2016, does.