Sen. Ted Cruz rallied conservatives Wednesday to "end President Obama's amnesty" in a meeting late Wednesday — as GOP leaders agreed to vote on legislation Cruz is backing to do just that.
Meeting in Cruz's Dirksen office over We, The Pizza; Starburst; Skittles; Shiner Bock beer; Yuengling; white wine; and three selections of Dr. Pepper — Diet Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper Ten, and the original, full-flavored stuff — 13 House Republicans stopped by the Cruz gathering, which lasted more than an hour and 40 minutes.
The members, in the order in which they arrived, were: Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan, Steve Stockman of Texas, Randy Neugebauer of Texas, Paul Broun of Georgia, Todd Rokita of Indiana, John Fleming of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Mo Brooks of Alabama, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, and finally Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who showed up for the last 10 minutes of the meeting.
The major topic of discussion, members said, was opposition to the $659 million border supplemental bill if it did not include legislation Cruz wants ending President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which grants deportation relief to children brought here illegally by their parents. House leadership was sufficiently concerned with the nascent revolt that they decided to move ahead with a plan that would require a vote on Blackburn’s bill to prohibit the administration from applying DACA to additional illegal immigrants provided the House passes the border supplemental. Blackburn, in fact, left the meeting early, telling reporters she was "heading back over to the Capitol."
Because they will be separate votes, the House could still pass the border supplemental but turn back the DACA bill — something members on the fence about the supplemental might not like. And the Senate would be free to take up the border money and ignore the DACA legislation.
The news turned the Cruz strategy session into more of a discussion about ongoing issues at the border. Members talked about their personal experiences visiting Central America and the border, and they told stories of what they’ve heard, from Central American girls being given birth control before they make the journey to the United States in case they are raped — an issue King has been telling reporters about in recent days — to gang members from MS-13 seeking asylum in the country.
After the meeting, Cruz emerged and told reporters what he hopes happens on Thursday is that "the House passes a bill ending President Obama’s amnesty."
"And I hope that following that, the Senate, for once, does our job, stands up and passes the same bill and sends it to the president for his signature," he said.
Cruz acknowledged that Senate passage of a bill ending DACA was unlikely, but he felt that was the central issue to the border crisis. Asked if he felt any responsibility to provide the administration with funding to deal with the crisis as Congress debates issues like DACA and altering a 2008 law on human trafficking, Cruz indicated he didn’t think more money would solve the issue.
"Listen," Cruz said, "I understand that for President Obama, the solution is always money, money and more money. Every approach of the president is more government spending, more debt, and making the hole deeper and deeper and deeper. If we want to solve this problem, the only way to solve it is to solve the root cause."
Cruz said he believed the House would "stand up and lead tomorrow."
"And if they do, if the House stands up and leads, and eliminates President Obama's amnesty, then the burden will shift to the Senate."
It wasn't immediately clear late Wednesday, though, if Cruz was on board with the two-bill plan from House GOP leaders.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.
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