Cruz injects border into budget fight

Cruz injects border into budget fight
© Alexander Bolton

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWhatever you think the Alabama special election means, you’re probably wrong This week: Congress gets ball rolling on tax reform Week ahead: Senators work toward deal to fix ObamaCare markets MORE (R-Texas) is threatening to use a stopgap government funding measure to torpedo President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

The remarks by the Tea Party lawmaker set up the possibility of another fiscal standoff this month and immediately triggered Democratic criticism that Republicans want to shut down the government.

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Cruz said Tuesday that the government funding measure should include legislation passed by the GOP-led House in August halting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. That legislation was strongly opposed by the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I think we should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty. Certainly I think it would be appropriate to include in the [continuing resolution], but I think we should use every tool at our disposal,” said Cruz, who addressed reporters at a press conference criticizing Obama’s executive order on deportations.

The government shut down for 16 days in October, after Cruz and allied House conservatives insisted a year-end stopgap funding measure include language halting implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) said Cruz would provoke another government shutdown if he insisted on including language to halt Obama’s executive order from 2012 that limited deportations of illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age.

“They have every right to do whatever they want legislatively. If they want to be the lead team of shutting down the government, that’s what they’re going to have to do,” he said when asked what would happen if Cruz insisted on using the stopgap to freeze the DACA.

The White House announced that Obama would take more executive action easing deportations by the end of the summer but backtracked over the weekend, after vulnerable Democrats in tough reelection races pushed back against the proposal.

Obama now plans to delay a new executive order until after the midterm election.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGun proposal picks up GOP support Children’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Dems see Trump as potential ally on gun reform MORE (Ky.) on Tuesday declined to say what he thought of Cruz’s statement, but he has previously made clear that he does not want a showdown over the government funding bill.

“We’re going to wait and see what the House sends over. I think they’re going to act this week. When we see what they send over, we’ll take a look at it,” he said.

McConnell said last week he hoped to avoid any drama.

“The only people talking about a government shutdown are the Democrats, and nobody has any interest in doing that, so I think we’ll pass a clean CR, which would operate the government probably into December,” he told Fox Business Network in an interview.

“That will be the height of the drama. Not much drama on that issue,” he said.

Cruz, who holds significant sway with some conservatives in the House and regularly appears on right-leaning TV and radio shows, declined to outline his strategy.

“I have a habit of waiting to actually see what’s in legislation before I make a decision whether I will support or oppose it,” he said when asked whether he would try to sink the stopgap if it did not address deferred deportations.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the House would vote Thursday on the bill, which would fund the government through Dec. 11.

At press time, Rogers told reporters the Republican stopgap measure would extend the Export-Import Bank until June. Many conservative House lawmakers oppose reauthorizing the bank because they view it as a form of corporate welfare.

The bank language and lack of a DACA provision will likely lead to GOP defections, but the funding bill could attract a slew of Democratic votes that might push it to passage. The House funding measure, which was released Tuesday evening, does not include and DACA language.

One lawmaker said that House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has agreed to a short-term extension of the bank’s authorization.

“I heard that there was some solution we’d come up with and that Hensarling signed off on it,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), a senior conservative member of the House Republican Conference. Hensarling has long been a critic of the Export-Import Bank.

The White House and congressional Democrats have political leverage on the bank, which faces an authorizing deadline of Sept. 30. Two years ago, the Republican House cleared a bank reauthorization bill, 330-93. 

Smith, who appeared alongside Cruz at Tuesday’s press conference, said the continuing resolution is not an appropriate vehicle to fight the president’s policy.

“I think we’ll have other options,” he said.

Reid on Tuesday said the stopgap should include renewed authorization of the Export-Import Bank as well as additional funds to deal with the surge of illegal migrant children along the Texas border.

“I hope that there’s something in there regarding Ex-Im Bank, and I certainly hope there’s something addressing the border issue,” he said.

Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress in July to bolster the federal response to the mass migration, but it stalled before lawmakers left for the August recess.

Republican and Democratic sources said the legislation crafted by House Republicans would include policy changes allowing the departments of Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to spend money more quickly to handle the stream of children from Central America. But it would not appropriate additional funds for those departments, sources said.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGun proposal picks up GOP support Durbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration MORE (Ill.), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, said he did not expect supplemental funds for the border to be attached to the continuing resolution.

“The circumstances have improved dramatically,” he said of the flow of illegal immigrants that caused a political crisis in July.

Cristina Marcos and Kevin Cirilli contributed.