Ted Cruz returns to Senate with renewed will to fight – but after a little time off

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Just before Sen. Ted Cruz’s return to the upper chamber last week, many wondered if the firebrand, fresh from a bruising battle for the Republican presidential nomination against Donald Trump, would come back more humble, more low-key.

Not a chance.

Cruz, who alienated many of his fellow GOP senators by saying the party had let down conservatives by becoming too establishment, campaigned on that “outsider” theme. He often denounced what he called “the Washington Cartel.”

Last week at a GOP luncheon, the Texan lawmaker said, supposedly in jest, “To be honest with you, I didn't really want to come back to the Senate.”

To which Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), whose dislike of Cruz is well-known, replied, "Well, we didn't really want you back, either."

Now Cruz is taking a week off from Capitol Hill, which means he will miss votes on Zika funding and appropriation bills, according to Politico.

"After several months of a nonstop schedule, Sen. Cruz is taking some downtime this week with Heidi and the girls. He looks forward to returning to the Senate next week," Phil Novack, a spokesman for Cruz, told Politico.

In recent appearances, Cruz made clear that his outspokenness and crusade against Washington-business-as-usual will not ebb any time soon.

He announced that he will seek re-election in 2018, and, in the process, made some remarks that left some wondering if he intends to run for president again in 2020.

“When I suspended my presidential campaign, I vowed to never stop fighting for our shared conservative values,” he said. “Today, I have an important announcement, and I want you to be the first to know. You see, the Washington Cartel has done everything in their power to defeat me – but I'm not giving in.”

Cruz even is using his unpopularity among his GOP colleagues in Congress to drum up support.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican who was frequently at loggerheads with tea party conservatives, referred to Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh” in a recent interview with the Stanford University Daily.

"I have Democrat friends and Republican friends," Boehner said. "I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

Boehner, along with other Republican leaders in Congress, grew angry with Cruz in 2013 when, against the wishes of many in his party, he led the fight to defund Obamacare, resulting in a budget standoff in Congress that led to a government shutdown.

That was one of many times Cruz went against the desire of many of his GOP colleagues to find a middle ground. Cruz characterized Republicans who were willing to compromise as weak and not acting in the best interests of their constituents.

The senator's critics have said he is stubborn to a fault. For his part, Cruz appears to be unfazed, portraying himself as a true conservative who refuses to sell out.

As for Boehner calling him Lucifer, Cruz views it as a badge of honor.

In a fundraising message, he said: "Less than 24 hours after I announced my intention to continue fighting for our shared conservative values from the Senate, former Speaker of the House John Boehner was at it again.”

"Remember when he called me 'Lucifer in the flesh?' Well, he didn't think that was far enough,” Cruz added. “Now the ringleader of the Washington Cartel is celebrating our defeat by saying, 'Thank God that guy from Texas didn't win.'"

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