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Posted at 5:10 p.m. on April 30, 2014
Updated 6:37 p.m. | Sen. Ted Cruz gathered a group of House conservatives in his office Tuesday night, talking about immigration and House GOP leadership elections slated for after the midterm elections.
As CQ Roll Call first reported last October, Cruz held a secret meeting with members at Tortilla Coast during the height of the government shutdown drama. Many of these same Republicans are the agitators who aren’t happy with Speaker John A. Boehner.
The Texas Republican gathered roughly 10 members of the GOP Conference at 8 p.m. Tuesday for a 90-minute session that included candy bars, crackers and soda. Cruz’s office would not give further details, calling the pow-wow a “private meeting.”
And members were reluctant to spill the beans on just who attended the session, or to gab about what was discussed. But Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama described Cruz as a “facilitator” while the group “talked about a variety of different public policy issues.”
“It was no agenda, spontaneous discussion,” Brooks told CQ Roll Call, later calling it a “rap session” and a “free-for-all.”
He said immigration — and new proposals being floated after Boehner mocked some of his members over the issue — was a major topic. Brooks said Boehner’s comments were “astonishing” and that the Cruz group “naturally” discussed them.
Brooks said his view is that Republicans needed “more diversity” in leadership.
“Right now, we have the top four leaders in the House, none of them are from a Mitt Romney state; all of them are from an Obama state. That’s not diversity. None of the four are from the conservative half of the GOP conference,” he said.
Also attending the Cruz meeting was Jim Jordan of Ohio. Jordan would only tell CQ Roll Call the group discussed “issues, what’s happening, all the bases,” and he downplayed its significance. He refused to say who else was there, or how many lawmakers were in the room.
Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, a vocal Boehner critic who was present for that Tortilla Coast meeting last fall, tweeted a cryptic note Tuesday. He wrote he had “another great meeting @TortillaCoast,” affixing the hashtag “#revolution” to the tweet. Turns out he was there for a rather innocuous fundraiser for Ken Buck, who is running for Colorado GOP Rep. Cory Gardner’s seat while Gardner runs for Senate.
But Huelskamp would not say if he attended the Cruz confab.
“We were at a lot of places,” he said. “I’m not at liberty — I might have to admit to my wife some of those meetings I go to, so, no, I can’t say.”
Several House Republicans told CQ Roll Call they were invited to Cruz’s meeting but, for a variety of reasons, did not attend. Those lawmakers included Louie Gohmert of Texas, Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming, Trent Franks of Arizona and Marlin Stutzman of Indiana.
(For those keeping track, there were 12 Republicans who didn’t vote for Boehner as speaker the last time: Gohmert, Huelskamp, Justin Amash of Michigan, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Paul Broun of Georgia, Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Steve Pearce of New Mexico, Steve Stockman of Texas and Ted Yoho of Florida.)
Cruz has been repeatedly taking aim at Republican leaders for failing to fight hard enough, in his view, for conservative principles. He participated Tuesday evening in a tele-town hall with ForAmerica, a conservative group run by Brent Bozell. The group has been pressing for Republicans to get rid of their leadership teams in both chambers using the hashtag #dumptheleadership.
Cruz helped rally the right against moving an immigration bill this year after Boehner released the GOP leadership’s immigration principles in January, playing the “amnesty” card and saying doing so would help keep Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in the Senate. That prompted several of Boehner’s allies to suggest Cruz mind his own business in the Senate, blaming him for the shutdown.
Cruz told ForAmerica that the showdown over Obamacare resulted in poor ratings in the polls for President Barack Obama and the health care law.
And when asked how they can help Cruz get Republican leaders to stay true to their promises, Cruz called for “a grass-roots tsunami.”
“If you look to Washington, you will be nothing but demoralized and despondent,” Cruz said. “The greatest divide we have in this country is between entrenched politicians in both parties and the American people.”
Those entrenched politicians “aren’t listening and they’re not going to,” Cruz said.
“We need to make it politically more risky to do the wrong thing,” he said.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.