There are political upstarts, rebels with and without a cause, and then there's Ted Cruz.
The first-term Republican senator from Texas has achieved the rare notoriety of having almost everyone in Washington mad at him, at least for now.
His legislative maneuverings led to last year's 16-day government shutdown, and he almost single-handedly scuttled this week's congressional approval of a year-long debt ceiling extension that denies fiscal conservatives a key negotiating tool until after the November elections.
Democrats dislike Cruz for his right-wing social and economic policies such as vehement opposition to gay marriage and President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms.
Cruz's Republican colleagues, especially those in the Senate, are angry because he forces them to choose between conservative purity and political pragmatism, a particularly tough spot in an election year.
To Cruz, a tea-party favorite who arrived in Washington just over a year ago, it's all about telling the truth -- as he sees it.
Cruz: Politicians are lying to the people
Washington politicians -- including fellow Republicans -- don't want to be honest with America about their unwillingness to tackle tough issues like the rising federal debt, Cruz said Thursday in an interview with conservative talk radio host Mark Levin.
"People don't like to be lied to," he said to explain historically low approval ratings for Congress, adding that forcing Republican politicians to tell the truth "makes their head explode."
Others, including fellow legislators, say Cruz puts his personal agenda of galvanizing a right-wing political movement ahead of what's best for his party as a whole as it tries to reclaim control of the Senate and retain its House majority in November.
Kevin Madden, a GOP strategist and CNN political commentator, said Cruz's tactics seek to position him as a conservative champion on social issues as well as economic issues.
Madden cited a new proposal by Cruz intended to strip the federal government's power to legalize gay marriage by shifting that issue to state control.
"Social conservatives are looking for a voice inside the legislative process on (the gay marriage) debate and Ted Cruz is now stepping up," Madden said. "And I think Ted Cruz sees this as an opportunity to become a social conservative champion because I think he has put together a pretty strong profile as an economic conservative champion in other debates."
However, such right-wing positions increasingly differ from the American mainstream, which can make Cruz a liability for the Republican Party, according to Madden.
"If he's positioning himself as the face of the party, and he's moving against public tide and public sentiment, it makes Republicans look once again like they are out of step with the American people," Madden said, adding: "That's what's happening to Ted Cruz."
New kid on the block
In less than 14 months, Cruz has quarreled publicly with Democratic senators, staged a 21-hour filibuster against the Affordable Care Act -- at one point reading the Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham" -- and enraged GOP leaders by pushing strategies that backfired on the party.
Last October, Cruz's insistence on linking provisions dismantling the Affordable Care Act to needed government spending authority caused the government shutdown. It ended with Republicans getting nothing but blame for what most Americans considered a needless political crisis.
Wary of a similar debacle, Republican leaders shifted from a two-year strategy of wringing concessions out of the need to raise the federal borrowing limit.
After previously saying they would target the debt ceiling deadline in late February for more deficit-reduction demands, they decided against creating another example of Washington gridlock and dysfunction.
This week, House Republicans failed to agree on attaching various provisions sought by conservatives to a debt-ceiling plan that allows the government to borrow what it needs through March of 2015.
House Speaker John Boehner, a past proponent of forcing concessions over the issue, gave up and pushed through a "clean" proposal that passed with support from 199 Democrats and only 28 Republicans.
GOP leaders in Senate then sought a politically expedient strategy for the measure disliked by the party's conservative base. They urged their caucus to let it come up without objection so Republicans could simply vote "no" while Democrats passed it.
Cruz had other ideas. He tried to filibuster the measure, which forced a 60-vote majority in order for it to proceed. That meant at least five Republicans had to join the 55-seat Democratic caucus to prevent a showdown that could roil financial markets over the possibility of a U.S. default in coming weeks.