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Cruz whipping tonight against Boehner border bill

FILE: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), an influential tea party leader, will meet with a group of House Republicans Wednesday to urge them to oppose House Speaker John A. Boehner’s plan to stem the flow of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to several House members who plan to attend the 7 p.m. gathering at Cruz’s office.

Cruz’s huddle is the latest example of the combative freshman senator wading into House affairs and serving as an informal whip against the leadership’s immigration position. It is also a direct shot at Boehner’s effort to pass his legislative package, hours before the bill is scheduled to come to the House floor on Thursday.

On Friday, the House adjourns for a five-week recess, leaving Boehner little time to cobble together the votes necessary to pass his proposal. “I think there is sufficient support in the House,” Boehner (R-Ohio) said after a meeting of the House Republican Conference on Tuesday. But he added, “We have a little more work to do.”

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) will be at Cruz’s closed-press session, as will more than a dozen other House Republicans. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a member of the House GOP’s working group on the border, is also planning to attend.

An aide to Boehner declined Wednesday to comment on Cruz’s activities.

Boehner unveiled legislation Tuesday to make it easier to deport Central American minors who have entered the United States illegally, provide $659 million to federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year, and change a 2008 anti-trafficking law. The funding would be significantly less than the $3.7 billion that President Obama has requested from Congress and less than the $1.5 billion initially floated by Boehner and his allies earlier this month — a figure that was cut due to conservative opposition.

Cruz has said he would like House Republicans to defund Obama’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program, a suggestion Boehner has so far resisted. At Wednesday’s meeting, Cruz is expected to ask House Republicans to tell Boehner to include this in his plan or risk defeat on the floor and outrage from grassroots activists.

“The only way to stop the border crisis is to stop Obama’s amnesty. It is disappointing the border security legislation unveiled today does not include language to end Obama’s amnesty. Congress cannot hope to solve this problem without addressing the fundamental cause of it,” Cruz said in a Tuesday statement.

Cruz, who is mulling a 2016 presidential bid, met with House Republicans over breakfast last week to discuss immigration and border issues. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has also advised House Republicans to oppose Boehner’s plan.

Also on Wednesday, the White House threatened to veto the House bill, saying in a statement of administration policy that the proposal “could make the situation worse, not better.” Under the House bill, unaccompanied minors would be required to have a deportation hearing in immigration court within a week of their apprehension on the border. But the Obama administration argues that such a move sets an arbitrary deadline that could force it to redirect resources from other high priority immigration enforcement cases.

“By setting arbitrary timelines for the processing of cases, this bill could create backlogs that could ultimately shift resources away from priority public safety goals, like deporting known criminals,” the administration said in the statement. “This bill will undercut due process for vulnerable children which could result in their removal to life threatening situations in foreign countries.”

Ed O’Keefe and David Nakamura contributed to this report.

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