By Alexander Bolton - 07/23/14 08:30 PM EDT
Sen. Ted Cruz is urging House Republicans to reject legislation addressing the border crisis, arguing that passing a bill through the lower chamber would play into the hands of Senate Democrats.
The Texas Republican’s move to sway GOP lawmakers will hamper any House effort to pass a border bill before Congress adjourns for its summer break at the end of next week.
In a Wednesday morning meeting, Cruz told a group of more than 20 House conservatives that they would regret passing legislation addressing the Texas border crisis because Senate Democrats were likely to gut it and use it as a vehicle to pass other immigration legislation.
He also touted his immigration bill that would defund Obama’s efforts to defer deportations of illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age. That legislation, Cruz said, is the only answer to the border crisis. But the measure is strongly opposed by Democrats and some Republicans.
Cruz, who might run for president in 2016, has enormous influence with Tea Party members in the House.
Should he try to pass a border bill through the House soon, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his deputies will need every vote they can get. Some House Republicans have signaled they won’t vote for any supplemental spending border bill and most Democrats are expected to oppose it.
A House Republican working group on Wednesday released its recommendations for dealing with the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children at the southern border. It did not embrace the Cruz solution.
Heritage Action, a Tea Party group that has been critical of Boehner, indicated it will oppose such a plan because it lacks provisions that Cruz is seeking.
It remains unclear if Boehner will seek a vote next week though the chances of such a bill getting through the House look slim.
Republicans who huddled with Cruz agree with him.
“He can’t see any way we can initiate legislation in the House that won’t come back to bite us, that will actually end up with worse results,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
“He basically said he couldn’t see how us passing something is going to do anything but create a Trojan horse,” said Fleming. “He doesn’t trust [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.].
“He discussed how Harry Reid rarely even allows a bill to come up,” Fleming added. “When something is passed out of there, he fills up the amendment tree with a lot of stuff that blocks everybody else’s amendments so there’s no reason to expect Harry Reid to act any differently on this.”
Cruz said the House conservatives invited him to have breakfast with them to discuss the border crisis. The group meets regularly as members of the Conservative Opportunity Society, which was founded in 1983 and helped launch Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America.
The freshman senator said he did not push any strategic decisions on them, but did warn that passing legislation could boomerang on House Republicans.
“One can never predict with certainty what Harry Reid will do, but at least to date his approach has been to force meaningless show votes, to block out all amendments and to do nothing to actually pass substantive legislation that solves the underlying problem,” Cruz said.
Passing legislation through the House addressing the border crisis would likely prove fruitless, if not worse, he added.
“Harry Reid has decided that no substantive legislation will pass and instead we’ll spend the remainder of the year just having a series of show votes, all of which are designed to fail, but all of which he believes help Democrats politically in November,” he said.
Cruz spoke at the invitation of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), an outspoken opponent of the Senate-passed immigration reform legislation and chairman of the Conservative Opportunity Society. King said it was the first time Cruz had spoken to the group.
King, who hasn’t ruled out a 2016 White House bid, warned that passing a border bill such as House GOP leaders are contemplating could give Reid and Senate Democrats a vehicle to pass pieces of the Senate immigration reform package.
“Among border-security Senate Republicans, they’re very well aware of what happens if you send something over to the Senate and Gang of Eight language gets attached to it,” he said. “Anything good we might send is either going to get Gang of Eight language or it’s simply not going to come up.
“No one has explained to me how anything we can do that fixes this problem could actually get through the Senate to the president’s desk,” he added. “Sen. Cruz and I are in substantial agreement.”
The Gang of Eight was a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans who authored the Senate immigration bill.
Cruz introduced legislation last week that would prevent the federal government from spending money on processing new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
He claimed Wednesday that the president’s lenient policy toward illegal immigrants who came to the country as children has caused the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America.
“The only way to solve this humanitarian crisis is to end President Obama’s amnesty because the direct cause of this crisis is President Obama’s lawlessness,” he said. “In 2012, President Obama unilaterally granted amnesty to some 800,000 people who entered this country illegally as children.”
Cruz last year played a pivotal role in a high-profile legislative battle when he and House conservatives insisted on adding language halting the implementation of ObamaCare to a stopgap government funding bill. The partisan showdown resulted in a 16-day government shutdown.
Peter Schroeder contributed.