Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are vowing to try again next year to defund President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, after the Senate used the weekend to pass a huge spending bill that lets Obama do what he wants on immigration through February.
The $1.1 trillion spending bill escaped the House without any vote to stop the Department of Homeland Security from implementing Obama's plan, which could let up to 5 million illegal immigrants stay and work in the United States. Senate Democrats also refused any votes on amendments, and Cruz was only able to attack it indirectly, through a procedural vote that challenged the constitutionality of Obama's action.
That vote only won the support of 22 Republicans, and on Sunday, Lee said opponents of Obama's immigration plans would push hard again for a vote early next year.
"With the funding for the Department of Homeland Security expiring in February, we'll have another opportunity to cover this issue of executive amnesty, and to withhold funds from the president's ability to carry out this executive amnesty program," Lee said on Fox News Sunday. "I look forward to that vote and the opportunity to stop the president from doing this."
DHS funding will expire on February 27, which reflects the GOP's fallback plan of forcing Congress to vote again on DHS early next year, when Republicans rule the Senate.
But while that plan was supposed to be the compromise that allowed some Republicans to vote for a spending bill without any limitation on Obama, Cruz late last week openly questioned whether Republicans will be tough enough to use their leverage on spending to stop Obama.
The fact that only 22 Republicans voted with Cruz on Saturday is one sign that many Republicans may not support the effort to shut down DHS over immigration. The incoming Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), voted against Cruz.
McConnell and 23 other Republicans also voted against Cruz to support the giant spending bill in the final vote.
Cruz seemed to sense the GOP split as early as Friday, when he warned that Republicans can't be bought off with promises about fixing the problem later. Cruz said for now, he took GOP leaders at their word that they would force a tough vote next year, but he also said he would be watching closely to make sure this happens.
"I would note that a whole lot of citizens across this country feel a little bit like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, wherein fight after fight, leadership in Congress says, 'we'll fight next time,' " Cruz said. "Not this time, no, no no."
"There comes a point when Charlie Brown has kicked the football and fallen on his rear end one tomboy times," he added. "When our leaders say as a commitment we will fight and we will stop President Obama's illegal amnesty, I take them at their word, but I am confident the American people will hold them to their word."