Senator Cruz: Why I tried to block Obama’s amnesty

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

By Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)

For the past week, Sen. Harry Reid has worked hard to prevent a vote on President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty. Finally, after considerable turmoil this weekend, we were able to force a vote.

Only one month ago President Obama announced amnesty for roughly five million people here illegally. He did so in defiance of the manifest will of the voters; as he rightly noted, his “policies were on the ballot all across the country.” And the people voted overwhelmingly against amnesty.

Amnesty is wrong, and it is unfair. It’s unfair to millions of legal immigrants, to the 92 million Americans who are currently not in the labor force, and to minority communities across the nation struggling with record unemployment.

Even more troubling was how the amnesty was decreed: by executive fiat, directly contrary to federal immigration law and to the Constitution. The former prohibits issuing work authorizations to those here illegally, and the latter prohibits the president from ignoring federal laws passed by Congress.

If a president can defy federal law, it renders useless the checks and balances in our Constitution. And it sets the stage for presidents to ignore any other laws (tax, labor, environmental) with which they might disagree.

If Congress does nothing in response, we acquiesce to this constitutional crisis.

Late Thursday night, the House passed the so-called “CRomnibus,” funding the federal government to the tune of $1.1 trillion.

That’s what’s publicly known. Now let me tell you some of what happened behind closed doors.

Within hours, I joined a handful of other senators in going to leadership and affirmatively offering to cooperate to facilitate a quick vote on the CRomnibus—that very evening, we suggested—in exchange for a simple up or down vote on defunding executive amnesty.

Republican leadership told us we would likely get our vote. All day Friday, they told us the same thing. Then, late Friday night, Harry Reid apparently changed his mind, and we were told there would be no vote on amnesty.

At that point, I supported an objection to delaying the CRomnibus vote any further. We used the leverage we have under the rules to try to force our vote.

Harry Reid responded in anger. He forced the Senate to come back Saturday and spend the entire day casting procedural votes to move forward a series of Obama nominations.

Some critics have disingenuously suggested that, by fighting on amnesty, we somehow facilitated these Obama nominations. That’s nonsense; Harry Reid had announced a week earlier he was going to force through every one of these bad nominations—from an unqualified and extreme surgeon general to the new head of immigration enforcement who has pledged to uphold Obama’s amnesty—and there is no doubt he would have done the exact same thing on Monday and Tuesday, with the very same result.

An hour into our Saturday session, I offered to Reid yet again to take up the CRomnibus immediately, vote on amnesty, and then finish it. He accepted my offer, but then the other Senate Democrats vetoed his agreement.

Finally, late Saturday night, the Democrats relented, and we forced a vote on the constitutionality of executive amnesty. Had we acquiesced, had we waited until Monday, Reid could have held the floor and blocked the vote.

So what was accomplished? First, every single Senate Democrat is now on the record in support of President Obama’s illegal amnesty. No fewer than a dozen Democrats had previously criticized that amnesty; now their positions are unambiguous for the voters.

That matters, as we discovered this past November.

Second, 22 Republicans voted in support of my constitutional point of order. This comprised a majority of the Republicans voting, and (not coincidentally) most of the Republicans up for reelection in 2016.

This puts a stake in the ground: That we will defend the Constitution.

Some have attacked the vote because not every Republican stood together. That’s true, because leadership did not want to fight this fight right now and urged Members to oppose.

But the substantive disagreement is overstated. A number of Republicans had a good-faith disagreement with the procedural vehicle we used to force the vote. They argued that Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional, but the bill funding it is not.

It would have been much better if all 45 Republicans had stood together. For that reason, we had preferred another procedural vehicle—a straight up or down vote on defunding amnesty—but Reid had blocked that. So this was the only tool remaining. This was the only way to get a vote.

And the procedural disagreement on the vehicle masks the breadth of the substantive opposition of Republican Members to executive amnesty.

Republican leaders have promised that the CRomnibus was part of a broader plan to force a fight to stop executive amnesty in January or February. I very much hope we come through on that promise.

And if we do indeed stand united against amnesty sixty days from now—if we follow through on our commitments—none will celebrate, and praise leadership, more than I will.

But we need action, not just words. We need resolve.

And one of the most significant benefits of the fight this weekend was that almost every Republican—those who voted with us and those who voted against us—has once again gone to the press expressly agreeing that Obama’s amnesty is unconstitutional.

We should build on that, stand together in the new Republican Senate, and honor those commitments. If we are going to defend the Constitution, we must respond decisively to this constitutional crisis.

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