Ted Cruz introduces bill to allow states to opt out of Syrian refugee plan

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition's Presidential Forum in Washington, December 3, 2015.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would allow states to opt out of President Obama's plan to accept at least 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year.

"In the event that the president wants to send refugees to a particular state, the governor has the ability to opt out," the GOP presidential candidate said at a joint press conference with Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The legislation will "protect the authority of the states and the authority of governors to keep their citizens safe," he said.

Cruz called on GOP leaders in Congress to take up and pass legislation he introduced last month that would impose a three-year moratorium on refugees coming from countries like Iraq and Syria and anywhere else where a terrorist group controls a substantial amount of territory.

He also demanded a vote on a third bill that would require an American to forfeit their U.S. citizenship if they travel abroad to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Cruz, considered the architect of the defund Obamacare effort in 2013 that led to the 16-day government shutdown, said Tuesday that lawmakers use a must-pass spending package to address the administration's refugee plan.

"I think we should use every legislative tool to keep this country safe. So of course we should use the omnibus," Cruz said about the upcoming spending package.

Congress must pass a bill to fund government operations by the end of Friday or a government shutdown will be triggered, though House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, told reporters Tuesday lawmakers will likely have to pass a short-term bill to buy more time to finish negotiations for the final 2016 package. It's unclear whether the final bill will address refugees.

"I will continue to press using the procedural tools of a senator," Cruz added, suggesting he will try to use his power in the Senate to slow the process of a spending bill that doesn't address refugees.

The House voted last month to pause the Syrian refugee plan, and it will vote Tuesday to reform the visa waiver program.

Asked for a reaction to Donald Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S., Cruz said, "I disagree with that proposal. I like Donald Trump," but refused to criticize him.

Last month, more than 30 governors said they would refuse to accept Syrian refugees from relocating to their states. Immigration experts, however, pointed out that states cannot legally reject immigrants who are granted refugee status because it deals with federal law, but they can make the process more difficult. Still, there's still nothing a governor could do to stop a refugee from moving to their state because people can move freely within the U.S.

Democrats would likely block Cruz's bill opt-out bill in the Senate, and President Obama would almost certainly veto the legislation.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.