Ted Cruz to House GOP: Forget the "cromnibus" and defund Obama's amnesty now

All he needs is 30 or so House conservatives to agree with him to deny Boehner 218 votes. Supposedly he’s already got 12.

Coming this Christmas: Shutdown II?

At Wednesday’s press conference, it appeared that some of the House’s hardliners are rallying around Cruz’s strategy–gut Obama’s executive action on immigration by defunding it in the must-pass spending bill, now. Cruz is now calling for a rider stripping funding for the executive action.

“We fought a bloody revolution to free ourselves from monarchs,” Cruz said…

Cruz then had a message for Democrats. He argued that Obama’s actions set a precedent where any future president can discard congressional wishes on everything from immigration to taxes.

“What the president is doing is dangerous,” Cruz said. “If the president doesn’t have to follow the law, what is the point of electing Congress?”

It might not work but it’ll make for a hell of a campaign commercial in the primaries next year. As a refresher, the “cromnibus” is composed of two bills, one a short-term funding bill that would keep Homeland Security running until March and the other a long-term funding bill that would keep the rest of the government running through next fall. The point, of course, is to preserve some power of the purse over DHS, which will carry out O’s amnesty, while preventing a full government shutdown, which is likely to hurt the GOP politically. Cruz, endorsing Mike Lee’s plan, wants to scrap the two-bill strategy and stick with one bill which would fund the entire government short-term but which would carry a rider specifying that no money can be used to implement O’s immigration order. That’s a high-stakes gamble. Harry Reid and the Senate Dems could block it, which would mean no funding for the government and an ensuing shutdown. Or Reid could try to remove the language about amnesty and pass a clean bill, although Senate GOPers could filibuster that. Or Reid and the Dems could shock the world by passing the House bill (why would they care about protecting Obama at this point?), thus forcing O to veto a bill that had been approved by his own party. That too would mean no money for the government and a shutdown, with an exciting PR war in the media over the holidays over which party’s really to blame.

Now, a strategic question: How much would a shutdown really hurt right now? Bear in mind that, even if the “cromnibus” passes, there’ll be plenty of bad press for the GOP next spring anyway if we have a funding standoff over DHS instead of the entire government. “GOP refuses to fund Homeland Security in protest of exec action” isn’t a politically winning headline, notes Benjy Sarlin. In which case, if you’re going to take heat for turning off the money hose, why not make a real statement by turning it off for everything? The timing seems relatively auspicious too. Less than a month removed from the midterms, we’re about as far away from the next national election as we can get. If you want to play chicken with Obama while counting on voters to have short memories, now’s a better time to shut things down than next year would be. Plus, by doing this during the lame-duck session, the GOP gets to share blame with Senate Democrats; they won’t have that opportunity again for two more years. Another benefit is the dissension Cruz’s gambit could sow in the Democratic ranks in Congress. The media loves a “GOP civil war” narrative but there’s Democratic civil war potential here too — it’s no secret that Reid is irritated with Obama, nor is it a secret that plenty of purple-state Senate Dems like Manchin, Heitkamp, Tester, and McCaskill will want to polish their conservative cred on some high-profile votes ahead of the 2018 elections. A vote to defund Obama’s amnesty would be tough for them. (Cruz’s press release today carefully cites various Democrats who’ve criticized Obama for his immigration power grab.)

And of course, the root cause of a shutdown this month would be much different from what caused the last shutdown in October 2013. Back then, Democrats could dismiss the GOP’s attempt to defund ObamaCare by calling them sore losers. The people elected a Democratic Congress, that Congress passed health-care reform, and that’s the end of it. Fair and square. If Republicans want to undo it, they should go out and get a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate themselves. There’s nothing fair and square about Obama’s amnesty, though: It’s unprecedented, constitutionally dubious, and apt to lead to worse executive abuses sooner rather than later. It’s worthy of impeachment and it’s entirely Obama’s fault. Maybe tradition will hold and the GOP will be blamed for a shutdown inspired by O’s move, but I don’t know. If ever there was a moment when Democrats might bear the brunt of shutdown politics, it’s right now with an unpopular president in office, weeks after an unholy beating in the midterms, with even people on their own side skeptical of the legality of what Obama’s up to.

Oh well. Probably won’t matter: According to the NYT, Boehner and the House leadership are moving ahead with the “cromnibus.”

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