Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked an attempt by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to call up House-passed legislation that would gut President Barack Obama's deferred action program for younger illegal immigrants.
Cruz asked for unanimous consent to bring up the House bill after a speech in which he blasted Obama for delaying a new unilateral program to expand an amnesty-style program for illegal immigrants until after the mid-term elections.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tried to call up a House-passed immigration bill in the Senate, but was blocked by Democrats. Alex Wong/Getty Images
"The president's decision to delay the amnesty until right after the election reflects a cynicism that even in Washington DC is unusual," Cruz said on the Senate floor.
"Because what it's saying is, 'I understand the policies that I as President Obama am trying to enforce are completely unpopular with the American people. So I'm going to jam them through right after the election,' " he said.
"What it reflects is that President Obama, and unfortunately many of the Senate Democrats, hold their constituents in very low regard," Cruz said. "It reflects a view that, if we do this after the election, even if the people don't like it, they'll forget about it in two years."
Cruz said if Democrats believe in expanding legal status for illegal immigrants, the Senate should agree to a vote on the issue this month, instead of waiting until after the election. Cruz suggested a House-passed bill that would go in the other direction, by gutting Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and preventing the creation of any similar attempt to provide temporary legal status for illegal immigrant adults.
But Cruz was met on the floor by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who objected after a quick speech in which he rejected the Republican argument that the immigration crisis at the southern border was caused by the DACA program, which was launched in 2012.
"The influx of unaccompanied minors was reported months before that announcement," Menendez said.
Before Menendez blocked consideration of the bill, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) accused Republicans of "glorying in the possibility that you can deport these children."
While Menendez said Democrats were blocking the House bill because it's a bad idea, Cruz said that's not the reason, and that Democrats are simply trying to avoid tough votes before the election, in order to protect Democrats. Several other Republicans have made the same charge over the last 18 months, in light of the almost non-existent votes on amendments or even votes on full bills under the Democratic leadership.
"For centuries, this body has been called the world's greatest deliberative body," Cruz said. "Unfortunately, that label can no longer accurately apply."
The House immigration bill that passed on August 1 would have blocked new applications under DACA, which would have prevented current DACA participants from reapplying under the program. It also would have prevented Obama from fulfilling his reported goal of creating some kind of legal status for as many as five to six million illegal immigrants.