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How Ted Cruz helped kill the GOP’s border bill

Ted Cruz.
Ted Cruz.

On Tuesday, House Republicans finally unveiled their bill to respond to the child migrant crisis. The plan: pass the bill Thursday, then pressure the Senate and White House into accepting it, rather than allowing no bill to pass at all. By the time House Republicans went home for the August congressional recess, they'd either be able to brag about having fixed the crisis — or they'd be able to blame Barack Obama and Harry Reid for blocking their attempts to do so.

Here was the problem with that plan: Ted Cruz, a Republican who's not even in the House, wanted to ruin it.

Cruz wants any deal on child migrants and the border to include defunding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA allows unauthorized immigrant students and young adults who've been in the US since 2007 to apply for temporary relief from deportation and a work permit. It's also, in the eyes of Republicans, Exhibit A in the case that President Obama refuses to enforce immigration law.

Cruz has blamed DACA for the child migrant crisis (evidence to the contrary), and has introduced his own bill to defund "expansion" of the program. (The bill would prohibit the federal government from using any money to approve new applications.) Now, according to the Washington Post, he whipped House Republicans to vote against their own leadership's bill, because it wouldn't include the DACA provision. And on the last day before recess, instead of voting on the bill, House leadership decided to pull it from the floor.

Cruz only needed to win a few defectors — and many conservatives in Congress were probably inclined to vote against the bill anyway.The House equivalent of Cruz' bill (introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn) had 31 cosponsors. Cruz only needed to persuade half of them that ending DACA is important enough to risk torpedoing the bill.

Here's the irony, though: Cruz' own bill wouldn't actually do much to derail DACA. The agency that processes DACA applications is almost entirely funded by application fees. That includes the funding for DACA, which is paid through a $465 fee for each new application or renewal. So the actual money that would be withheld as a result of Cruz' bill is negligible at best.

The Blackburn bill directly prevents the government from issuing any new DACA relief — and, according to Blackburn's staff, prevents immigrants who currently have DACA from renewing it after their 2 years are up. But Cruz' own preferred solution, and the one he urged House conservatives to spike the bill for, wouldn't have done much at all.