Ted Cruz Pushes the House to Have All-Out Spending Fight on Obama Immigration Action

Conservatives in the House look to Cruz once again for solutions to stop Obama.

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks during the victory party for Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott after an apparent victory over Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis on November 4, 2014 in Austin, Texas.
National Journal
Lauren Fox
Dec. 3, 2014, 7:50 a.m.

Sen. Ted Cruz is play­ing de facto House con­ser­vat­ives lead­er once again.

Tak­ing the po­di­um Wed­nes­day at an out­door press­er be­side the House’s most vo­cal bor­der se­cur­ity hawks, Reps. Steve King and Michele Bach­mann, Cruz slid com­fort­ably back in­to a fa­mil­i­ar place: be­ing a thorn in the side of elec­ted House lead­ers.

While House Speak­er John Boehner has been try­ing to rally Re­pub­lic­ans around a plan to fund the gov­ern­ment be­fore the Dec. 11 dead­line, the most-con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers in the cham­ber want to con­front Pres­id­ent Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion more ag­gress­ively.

At Wed­nes­day’s press con­fer­ence, it ap­peared that some of the House’s hard­liners are ral­ly­ing around Cruz’s strategy”“gut Obama’s ef­fort on im­mig­ra­tion by de­fund­ing it in the must-pass spend­ing bill, now. Cruz is call­ing for a rider strip­ping fund­ing for the ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion.

“We fought a bloody re­volu­tion to free ourselves from mon­archs,” Cruz said.

Cruz also ac­cused mem­bers of Con­gress of not be­ing hon­est with those who elec­ted them a month ago.

“Do what you said you would do,” he said.

Cruz then had a mes­sage for Demo­crats. He ar­gued that Obama’s ac­tions set a pre­ced­ent where any fu­ture pres­id­ent can dis­card con­gres­sion­al wishes on everything from im­mig­ra­tion to taxes.

“What the pres­id­ent is do­ing is dan­ger­ous,” Cruz said. “If the pres­id­ent doesn’t have to fol­low the law, what is the point of elect­ing Con­gress?”

Bach­mann ar­gued that voters had reelec­ted a Re­pub­lic­an ma­jor­ity in the House to stop Obama, not to al­low him to move for­ward alone.

“Will we be a people who de­cide that we are go­ing to go with the freight train of what Wash­ing­ton, D.C., wants or will we listen and harken to the voice of the Amer­ic­an people that was stated un­mis­tak­ingly on Nov. 4?” Bach­mann said at the event.

House ap­pro­pri­at­ors have fu­tilely tried to make the case that Obama’s ac­tion can­not even be de­fun­ded by Con­gress. And Boehner floated a plan to the con­fer­ence Tues­day that would fund most of the gov­ern­ment through the fisc­al year but en­able House Re­pub­lic­ans to keep the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment on a tight­er leash by  keep­ing money flow­ing to it only for a few months.

Still, rank-and-file mem­bers on the right don’t seem to be com­pletely listen­ing, and time is run­ning out for the House lead­er­ship team to cobble to­geth­er a co­ali­tion to pass the fund­ing bill by late next week.

Some GOP lead­ers say now is not the time for a fund­ing fight when Demo­crats still con­trol the Sen­ate. Cruz says that is not a reas­on not to stop Obama’s ac­tion.

“The same folks who are say­ing, ‘Gosh, we can­not do any­thing now,’ are the same folks who in Janu­ary are go­ing to say, ‘Gosh, we don’t have 60 votes in the Sen­ate,’ ” Cruz said Wed­nes­day. “It’s like Charlie Brown and Lucy where con­sist­ently the same voices pull the foot­ball aside and say, ‘You know what, you can nev­er ever ever do any­thing to stop a law­less pres­id­ent.’ “

Cruz had already entered the House fray in re­cent weeks. Since Obama an­nounced his ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion, Cruz has been in com­mu­nic­a­tion with some of the House’s con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers, in­clud­ing Rep. Mo Brooks. On Wed­nes­day morn­ing, he con­vened with many of them to stake out a game plan at a Con­ser­vat­ive Op­por­tun­ity So­ci­ety meet­ing.

While Cruz has some­times but­ted heads with his Sen­ate col­leagues, this is not the first time he’s found trac­tion on the oth­er side of the Cap­it­ol.

The Texas sen­at­or is seen by many as the agit­at­or who en­cour­aged House Re­pub­lic­ans to de­fund Obama­care through the fund­ing pro­cess in Oc­to­ber 2013, which led to a gov­ern­ment shut­down. Earli­er this year, ac­cord­ing to the Hou­s­ton Chron­icle, Cruz met with con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers in his of­fice to dis­cuss im­mig­ra­tion and the House lead­er­ship elec­tion.

Fel­low sen­at­ors are used to Cruz’s close re­la­tion­ships and strategy ses­sions with House Re­pub­lic­ans, but they still would like to see a fund­ing fight avoided.

Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., says Cruz is free to meet with whomever he wants to, but he wor­ries about the po­ten­tial of Cruz lead­ing con­ser­vat­ive House mem­bers to­ward a strategy that could res­ult in a shut­down.

“There is no ap­pet­ite ex­cept for very few to shut down the gov­ern­ment,” Mc­Cain said. “We’ve seen that movie be­fore.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ar­iz., who also worked on the Sen­ate’s com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill that passed in 2013, said he hopes Re­pub­lic­ans work to­ward an al­tern­at­ive to Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion rather than a fund­ing show­down.

“Our re­sponse on the im­mig­ra­tion thing ought to be to put le­gis­la­tion on the pres­id­ent’s desk,” Flake said.

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