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Cruz rankles White House with immigration claim

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Sen. Ted Cruz talks with a reporter outside the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill.

Freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has wasted no time ruffling the feathers of his Senate colleagues, on issues from a proposed assault weapons ban to drone strikes to his demeanor in Senate hearings.

And this week is no exception, with Cruz drawing a White House rebuke Monday for claiming that President Barack Obama hopes to spike immigration reform efforts for political reasons.

In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, Cruz said he believes Obama wants the immigration reform effort to “crater” so that Democrats can use the issue as a cudgel in future elections.

“His behavior concerning immigration leads me to believe that what he wants is a political issue rather than actually to pass a bill,” Cruz told the paper. “What he wants is for the bill to crater, so that he can use the issue as a political wedge in 2014 and 2016. That is why I believe the president is insisting on a path to citizenship for those who are here illegally. Because by insisting on that, he ensures that any immigration reform bill will be voted down in the House.”

That accusation got a blunt response from the White House Monday.

“There’s no evidence to support those claims,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.  

Earnest said that the president is “pleased with the progress” being made by the bipartisan Gang of Eight working to draft immigration reform legislation, adding that the White House will wait “to reserve judgment on the actual product until it is presented.”  

Earlier Monday, Obama urged lawmakers to unveil the bill soon so that debate on the measure can begin “next month.”

Cruz, who is one of just three Latinos in the United States Senate, opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- a key aspect of the proposal for reform advocates.

He argues that such a path is “profoundly unfair” to legal immigrants to the United States and that it violates “the rule of law.”