WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Tea Party firebrand who nearly provoked the second government shutdown in a little over a year, on Tuesday apologized to his fellow Republicans for a strategy that backfired.
A spokeswoman for Cruz said the senator apologized to his colleagues "for inconveniencing their personal schedules" over the weekend. But Cruz still believes, the spokeswoman said, that fighting for a vote to stop funding of President Barack Obama's new program easing deportations for millions of illegal immigrants "was critically important."
The apology to Republican senators came at a weekly closed-door lunch when Cruz, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, stood up and "was contrite and made an effort to explain to people he wished he hadn't done it," said a source familiar with what happened during the lunch meeting.
Cruz's move came amid an unusually public rebuke of his tactics by several fellow Republican senators. They criticized the way the Texas senator caused the Senate to be in session late Friday night and through Saturday because he refused to drop procedural objections to passage of a $1.1 trillion bill to keep the government running beyond midnight Saturday.
Cruz's actions also inadvertently gave Democratic leaders an opportunity to advance nearly two dozen of Obama's nominees, including Sarah Saldana, to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Some Republican senators, in reaction to Cruz's moves, had been privately talking up the need to punish the senator, according to Senate Republican aides.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Dan Grebler)