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New citizenship suit challenges Ted Cruz's eligibility to run for president

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz gestures towards rival candidate businessman Donald Trump (L) as he speaks at the Fox Business Network Republican presidential candidates debate in North Charleston, South Carolina January 14, 2016.

Chris Keane/Reuters

A Houston attorney is filing a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court challenging Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's "natural-born" citizenship and his eligibility to run for president, fulfilling a recent prediction by GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

"This 229-year question has never been pled, presented to or finally decided by or resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court," 85-year-old Newton B. Schwartz Sr. said in his complaint, according to Bloomberg News.

Schwartz called on the nation's highest court to take up the issue quickly, saying that "time is of the essence" as the country's first nominating races in Iowa and New Hampshire draw near.

The question of Cruz's qualifications for president has been front and center in the Republican primary race, since Trump gave the issue new life earlier this year.

The Cruz-Trump spat came to a head at Thursday's GOP debate in South Carolina.

"If for some reason, Neil, he beats the rest of the field, I already know the Democrats are going to be bringing a suit," Trump told debate moderator Neil Cavuto.

He then addressed Cruz: "You have a big lawsuit over your head while you're running. And if you become the nominee, who the hell knows if you can even serve in office? So you should go out, get a declaratory judgment, let the courts decide."

But Cruz dismissed the suggestion to head to court.

"I've spent my entire life defending the Constitution before the U.S. Supreme Court," the Texas senator said. "And I'll tell you, I'm not going to be taking legal advice from Donald Trump."

Earlier in the debate, Cruz laid out the legal argument, calling it "quite straightforward."

"Under longstanding U.S. law, the child of a U.S. citizen born abroad is a natural-born citizen," he said. If a soldier has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That's why John McCain, even though he was born in Panama, was eligible to run for president. If an American missionary has a child abroad, that child is a natural-born citizen. That's why George Romney, Mitt's dad, was eligible to run for president, even though he was born in Mexico."

But some, like Schwartz, disagree that "natural-born" citizenship is an open-and-shut case.

"The country will be in chaos if [Cruz's] elected president or vice president and this goes to trial then," Schwartz said in an interview with Bloomberg. "I can see both sides of this argument."

Schwartz added that he filed the paperwork himself and was "amazed no one did it" before.

The Houston attorney said he had "nothing against" Cruz, but told Bloomberg that he "probably" supports Democratic contender Bernie Sanders.