Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, won plaudits in Tuesday night’s debate for his takedown of Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., immigration reform effort in 2013.
Yet if Cruz’s explanation of why he proposed an amendment to the 2013 legislation is true, then he blatantly misrepresented his own intentions at the time on at least four occasions.
Cruz denied on Tuesday that he has ever supported legal status for undocumented immigrants.
“I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support it,” Cruz said, when questioned by Rubio.
In 2013, however, Cruz sponsored an amendment that would have allowed undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States permanently and obtain legal status, while eliminating a path to citizenship. It is very hard to square that effort with Cruz’s claim that he has “never supported legalization.”
That doesn’t stop him from trying, however. Cruz’s campaign said last month that his 2013 amendment was a “poison pill,” intended to undercut the main legislation and reduce its chances of passing. By eliminating a path to citizenship, Cruz hoped to turn Democrats against the bill. Top Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler repeated the “poison pill” assertion after the debate Tuesday.
Set aside for a moment the fact that Cruz’s actual sponsorship of the amendment demonstrates a supposed commitment to legalizing undocumented immigrants that he now says was insincere.
At the time, Cruz was far from coy, instead representing himself as hopeful that his amendment would make it more — not less — likely for immigration legislation to become law.
“I don’t want immigration reform to fail. I want immigration reform to pass,” Cruz said in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 21, 2013, the day that his amendment was voted down by the committee, 13 to 5.
Cruz said before the vote that he “would urge people of good faith on both sides of the aisle” to support his amendment if their intent was to “pass common sense immigration reform that secures the borders, that improves legal immigration, and that allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows.”
“If this amendment were to pass, the chances of this bill passing into law would increase dramatically,” Cruz said.
A few weeks later, during a debate on the Senate floor, Cruz repeated his belief that his amendment “is the compromise that can pass.”
Cruz called on those who opposed him to “demonstrate a commitment not to politics, not to campaigning all the time, but to actually fixing this problem, to finding a middle ground.”
Cruz even denied at the time that his amendment was a “poison pill.” “My objective was not to kill immigration reform,” Cruz told The Washington Examiner’s Byron York one week after his amendment was voted down.
Arguing that “an overwhelming majority of Americans in both parties wants to see our broken immigration system fixed, wants to see the problem solved, the border secured, and our remaining a nation that welcomes and celebrates legal immigrants,” Cruz told York he had been trying “to amend the Gang of Eight bill so that it actually solves the problem rather than making the problem worse.”
In fact, Cruz accused the White House and congressional Democrats of working in bad faith and themselves hoping that the immigration legislation would fail.
“What I believe is happening is that citizenship provision is designed, and the White House knows it’s designed, to be a poison pill in the House [of Representatives] to torpedo the bill, because then they want to campaign in 2014 and 2016, and say, ‘See those Republicans? They killed immigration reform,’” Cruz said on May 31 at a forum at Princeton University.
Cruz then repeated his belief that “if my amendments were adopted, the bill would pass.”
“My effort in introducing them was to find solution that reflected common ground and fixed the problem,” he said.
It’s no surprise that in a GOP presidential primary season, Cruz has changed his story about why he put forward an amendment that would have provided a path for legal status, if not citizenship. The Texan is competing with Donald “I’m going to build a wall” Trump to win over a conservative base that is even more agitated about illegal immigration than it was in the summer of 2013.
But in changing his story, Cruz is also claiming that he was not truthful at the time about what he was up to. The Cruz campaign has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Update: Cruz campaign spokesman Catherine Frazier responded late Wednesday with a statement that Cruz “stood with colleagues like Jeff Sessions and Mike Lee leading the fight to defeat Rubio’s Gang of 8 amnesty bill” and accusing Rubio of “dishonest attempts to misconstrue Ted Cruz’s record on immigration.” But the statement did not address Cruz’s statements in 2013 supporting passage of the Gang of 8 bill.