Ted Cruz, the architect of last year's government shutdown, said Wednesday that Republicans should act now to block President Obama's executive action on immigration, and not wait until next year.
House GOP leaders are trying to build support around a government funding plan that would avoid a shutdown on Dec. 11 while pushing a fight over Obama's deportation relief program into next year. But the Texas Republican senator and his conservative allies want to stage a showdown over immigration without delay.
Calling Obama's action a "full-fledged constitutional crisis," Cruz said he wants to pass a short-term spending bill that includes language blocking funds from paying for the immigration program. Cruz suggested that Republican lawmakers who want to punt on defunding Obama's action would violate their campaign pledges to voters.
"Do what you said you would do," Cruz told reporters outside the Capitol building. “Doing what you promised doesn’t mean, as it so often does in Washington, sending a really stern letter and having a meaningless show vote.”
The senator's comments appeared to be a jab at leadership's plan, which would fund the government through next September while only providing money for the Department of Homeland Security, which administers immigration law until February or March. The House would also vote on a symbolic bill disapproving of Obama's plan.
Cruz is far from alone. He stood alongside fellow immigration hardliners, Reps. Steve King (Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.), at the press conference, which doubled as a rally against Obama's action.
A few dozen people carried signs and waved the Gadsen flag popular with Tea Party activists. Crowd members shouted words of encouragement, like "shut it down" and "Ted Cruz 2016." When Cruz said that Obama violated the Constitution, one woman shouted "that's because he's a bitch."
King said support for waging a battle over the immigration program now is growing among conservatives in the House. King convened a breakfast on Wednesday that included over 20 members whom he said would "stick together" around the plan. He indicated that number could grow to as many as 50.
"They're going to have a difficult time reconciling their oath to the Constitution and a vote to fund a lawless, unconstitutional act," King said of lawmakers who vote to fund the government without stripping money for the executive action.
Republican leaders want to push the fight to next year, arguing they will have more leverage to take on Obama's program with control of both chambers of Congress.
The schism between conservatives and party leaders is reminiscent of the 2013 government shutdown. Pressed by Cruz, Republicans tied Obamacare-defunding measures to a government funding bill. When the Democrat-controlled Senate declined to pass the legislation, a 16-day shutdown ensued.
GOP leaders are determined to avoid another shutdown. If enough conservative lawmakers defect, leaders may have to rely on Democratic votes to pass the spending plan.
Even then, it's unclear how much Congress can to do stop Obama's new program, which would provide temporary deportation reprieves and work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants.
The chief appropriator in the House, Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has said Congress cannot defund the action because the agency responsible for carrying out the program, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, is self-funded by fees.
Conservative members say that's untrue. Cruz said some lawmakers would use any excuse to postpone action, a decision he said is unacceptable.
"It's like Charlie Brown and Lucy where consistently the same voices pull the football aside and say 'you know what, you can never ever ever do anything to stop a lawless president,'" he said.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.