Some conservative groups, he says, also took a novel approach in demanding that elected officials share not only their policy goals but also their tactics, and treating disagreement over tactics as a betrayal of principle. Their efforts sometimes produced amusing results. The senator’s office got phone calls urging him to vote against “keister” and “cluster” rather than cloture, for instance, and to “stand with Tom Cruise,” presumably meaning Senator Ted Cruz…

He also expresses a deeper anxiety. At a Senate Republican lunch the day of the vote, someone mentioned that the party wasn’t ready to run the Senate: If Republicans had held a majority in both the House and the Senate, they wouldn’t have been able to pass anything in either chamber. The senator thinks such a turn of events would have been “incredibly damaging.”

He heard a similar sentiment from the other chamber of Congress: House Republicans from his state have told him how much happier some of their colleagues would be if they were in the minority and could just lob spitballs at the Democrats. “We have to really think how we become the governing party,” he says.