By SEUNG MIN KIM, POLITICO
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called on lawmakers to use “any and all means necessary” — including must-pass government funding measures — to block President Barack Obama from taking executive action on immigration.
The tea party hero, who aggressively pushed the anti-Obamacare strategy that spurred last year’s 16-day government shutdown, has seized on immigration executive moves from the Obama administration as the root cause of the border crisis this summer.
Although Obama said this weekend that he would delay any executive actions on immigration until the end of the year, Cruz indicated Tuesday that he still wanted to target the issue this month.
“I think we should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty,” Cruz said when asked Tuesday whether he wants to include such provisions in a continuing resolution to fund the federal government. “That certainly, I think, would be appropriate to include in the CR, but I think we should use every – every – tool at our disposal.”
The comments from the junior Texas senator came at a news conference when several conservative lawmakers from both chambers gathered to criticize Obama’s executive actions on immigration – both past and potential future orders.
“President Obama has decided this election will be a referendum on amnesty,” Cruz said, referring to the White House’s move to punt the immigration executive action until after the midterm elections, following concerns from several vulnerable Senate Democrats.
Cruz has introduced legislation to strip taxpayer funds from being used to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – a 2012 initiative from the Obama administration that stopped deporting hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants with longstanding ties to the United States. And before leaving for the August recess, the Republican-led House passed a measure that essentially gutted DACA, which would subject nearly 600,000 so-called Dreamers to deportation.
The senator, who is mulling a presidential run in 2016, declined to answer whether he would oppose the CR if such an immigration provision was not included, saying he would rather wait to see the details of the bill.
There’s little evidence the same scenario as last fall’s shutdown will prevail this year; lawmakers largely want little drama before heading back home to campaign for the midterms. In fact, much of the shutdown talk has come from Democrats who see the issue as a potential political winner.
Still, Cruz was largely credited – or blamed – for the shutdown last year, and he carries an influential role with House Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to entertain the prospects of adding immigration measures to the funding bill, deferring to the House. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded: “If I have anything to do with it, no, no, no” when asked about Cruz’s statement.
“They have every right to do whatever they want legislatively,” Reid said, referring to Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who accompanied Cruz’s news conference. “If they want to be the lead team of shutting down the government, that’s what they’re going to have to do.”
Cruz has also become a major target of immigration advocates.
As he left the news conference in the Capitol Hill, a crowd of young demonstrators — identified as so-called Dreamers — had gathered to protest Cruz. One young woman, being held back by a Capitol Police officer, shouted to the senator: “Why do you want to deport me and my mother?”
“Dreamers fought for and won DACA,” said Greisa Martinez, national field organizer for United We Dream, the activist group that organized the protest against Cruz and in Reid’s office on Tuesday. “We will confront any politician at every corner who stands in the way of our freedom and the freedom of our parents, who Sen. Cruz would be content deporting.”