By Gabriel Debenedetti
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas urged lawmakers on Tuesday to do whatever it takes to block President Barack Obama from acting unilaterally on immigration, raising the specter of a government shutdown fight similar to one Cruz sparked last year.
Cruz, a conservative Tea Party leader and potential 2016 presidential contender, would not rule out trying to link the issue to a resolution funding the federal government that Congress must pass by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
"We should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty. That certainly, I think, would be appropriate to include in the (resolution)," Cruz told a news conference on Capitol Hill. "I think we should use every tool at our disposal."
Republicans label as "amnesty" any effort to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants within the United States.
Cruz led last year's effort tying a proposal to block funding for Obama's healthcare law to a government spending bill, leading to an unpopular 16-day government shutdown that the public blamed on Republicans.
Party leaders are eager to avoid a similar scenario this year ahead of Nov. 4 congressional elections when Republicans have a strong chance to pick up the six seats they need to recapture a majority in the 100-member U.S. Senate. They already control the U.S. House of Representatives.
The White House said on Saturday that Obama, a Democrat, would wait until after the elections to unveil a plan to deal with immigration policy, including a plan for the tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Central America being held at the southern border. Obama had initially planned to announce the executive actions by the end of summer.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month found that 70 percent of Americans believed that immigrants threatened the country's beliefs and 63 percent that they burdened the economy.
Flanked by Republican colleagues who joined him in condemning Obama, Cruz said Senate Democrats should allow a vote on a measure passed by the House of Representatives in August that would crack down on the buildup of undocumented minors at the southern border.
(Reporting by Gabriel Debenedetti; Editing by John Whitesides and Howard Goller)