Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took to the U.S. Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon to rip into Senate Democrats’ conference-wide support for President Barack Obama’s planned executive amnesty–which Obama recently delayed until the election in an sign of how unpopular the move would be.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “seems to view as his principal obligation protecting his members from hard votes,” Cruz said after a lengthy floor bout with Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL)
“And I’d like to point out the concept of a hard vote only makes sense if there’s a disconnect between what a Senator says at home and what he or she does in Washington. Votes are hard if you have Democratic Senators who go home to their states and tell their constituents ‘I’m really conservative. I don’t agree with that crazy stuff President Obama is doing.’ And then they come here and vote lock step with the Majority Leader and the President,” Cruz added.
Cruz was on the floor attempting a procedural motion to force a vote on the House-passed bill that would block the president from continuing or expanding his planned executive amnesty for illegal aliens via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or something like it. While on the floor, Durbin argued with him–at one point literally making the case that legalizing illegal aliens isn’t “amnesty”–and Menendez objected to Cruz’s motion, therefore blocking the bill from coming up for a vote.
Cruz called on Durbin to sponsor the anti-DACA bill with him, arguing it matches what Durbin and the White House say they support.
“The White House in their talking points routinely says the children coming today are not eligible for amnesty,” Cruz said. “I see my colleague from Illinois [Durbin] nodding in agreement with that statement. If that is the case, then my colleague from Illinois should join me in sponsoring this measure because the legislation I’ve introduced would simply put into law what the white House talking point is.”
Cruz went on to press Durbin on whether tens of thousands of unaccompanied children coming to the U.S. illegally right now should receive amnesty, Durbin said he believes that “no” the children coming to the U.S. illegally shouldn’t get amnesty.
“That is not the argument anyone is making, that these children should receive amnesty,” Durbin said. “What we’re saying is they should be treated humanely and go through an orderly process that will result in the majority of them returning to their countries.”
Durbin then argued that the anti-DACA bill that Cruz put forward would “disqualify two million children in the United States [who] could qualify for DACA as DREAMers” and that Cruz is aiming to revoke the illegal aliens’ abilities to “stay here without fear of deportation.”
“I thank my friend from Illinois but would note the comments he made are not connected to the facts of the proposal,” Cruz retorted. “The proposal is explicitly prospective. Some 800,000 people have already received amnesty. Let’s be clear. The president had no legal authority to grant amnesty at the time. He did so unilaterally contrary to the rule of law. Now, we are in a broader context where the president has quite publicly promised to grant amnesty, again unilaterally and illegally, to some five million or six million people.”
Cruz added that, contrary to what Durbin said on the floor, his legislation would not affect those who have already received DACA amnesty, only prevent any others from receiving it “going forward” and make clear the president “doesn’t have the authority” to do this.
“This isn’t about amnesty,” Durbin said, before in the next sentence saying it’s really about whether a certain of class of illegal aliens should get amnesty. “It’s about whether or not those who are qualified under the DREAM Act, which incidentally was endorsed by the House Republican caucus when they put out their statement of principles, whether those under the DREAM Act will have a chance to stay.”
Menendez went to the floor shortly thereafter too, defending amnesty and serving as the official block of Cruz’s request for unanimous consent to have a debate and a vote on his anti-DACA bill.
When Cruz pressed Menendez on Obama’s inaction on the border crisis, but Menendez retorted that Obama had acted – by bringing top Central American officials to the U.S. for a discussion about the problem.
“The president acted [to solve the border crisis],” Menendez said. “It’s the president who brought the Central American presidents here and said you’ve got to work with us to stop your young children from coming to our country and you’ve got to create better conditions in your country. And we want to work with you to do that. That worked with Mexico to ensure that the, what they call the beast, the train of death, ultimately Mexican authorities interceded to stop immigrants from getting on that train to the United States. It’s the president who ultimately took the resources that existed in the Department of Homeland Security and reauthorized it to send it to the border and deal with the challenge. And all of that among other efforts ultimately has found us with a dramatic reduction. So I understand the politics of this. I appreciate everybody in this chamber has the right to pursue that. But the bottom line is the president acted. The reality is we have dramatically reduced. And the core challenge here is have comprehensive immigration reform.”
Toward the end of the heated exchange, Cruz took the floor again and said that for him, votes aren’t “hard.”