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"Tonight is the first opportunity that Congress has to express disapproval."
On Saturday night, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won a battle, but not the war, against President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
Cruz led the fight to force a Senate vote on Obama's immigration plans, as a condition of approving a massive, $1.1 trillion spending bill for 2015. He was able to make that vote happen by arguing that the spending bill violated the Constitution because it would fund Obama's plan — a plan Cruz and other Republicans say is illegal because it rewrites immigration law without any input from Congress.
"Tonight is the first opportunity that Congress has to express its disapproval," Cruz said late Saturday of Obama's immigration plan.
Cruz lost the vote, as expected in a Senate that is still controlled by Democrats for a few more weeks. But Cruz's tactics — which forced the Senate to work unexpectedly late into Saturday night — also drew criticism from Republicans, and several GOP senators vote against Cruz.
In the final vote, the Senate decided 22-74 against Cruz — less than half of the Senate's 45 Republicans voted with Cruz.
The only Republicans voting with Cruz were Sens. Roy Blunt (Mo.), John Boozman (Ark.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (N.D.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Rob Portman (Ohio), James Risch (Idaho), Pat Roberts (Kan.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jon Thune (S.D.) and David Vitter (La.).
Cruz raised his constitutional argument against the bill on Friday night, a move that surprised both Republicans and Democrats and forced the Senate back into the office for a rare Saturday session. After several hours of negotiating, Democrats finally agreed to give Cruz his vote.
The vote itself was a victory — many Republicans have been begging for either the House or Senate to go on the record about Obama's unilateral immigration decision. Even Republican leaders in the House failed to give the GOP a vote in the Senate when it passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, a factor that prompted anger among Republicans and led 67 GOP members to vote against it.
Late Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) publicly rejected a GOP offer to vote on an amendment to the bill on immigration. Cruz said his more complicated procedural tactic was the only way to get around Reid's effort to block a vote.
"Harry Reid's last act as majority leader is to, once again, act as an enabler for President Obama, by blocking this vote on the president's amnesty," Cruz said on his Facebook page. "He is going to an embarrassing length to tie up the floor to obstruct debate and a vote on this issue because he knows amnesty is unpopular with the American people, and he doesn't want the Democrats on the record as supporting it."
Despite the final result, Cruz said it was worth the extra day in the office just to get the Senate on the record.
"We are only seeking a vote," he said on Facebook. "As soon as the majority leader allows a vote on a measure to stop President Obama's amnesty, we can and should move forward on this bill to fund the government."
With the Cruz vote out of the way, that's just what happened. The Senate moved immediately to a vote on passage of the 2015 spending bill.
The spending bill itself is opposed by both Republicans and Democrats, but for different reasons. In a vote earlier in the day on whether to proceed to the bill, 13 Republicans voted "no," including Cruz and Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
But five Democrats also voted against moving to the bill, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who opposes language easing federal regulations on banks.
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