WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) got a hero's welcome at the Values Voter Summit in Washington Friday for his push to defund Obamacare, but faced a barrage of hecklers protesting for comprehensive immigration reform.
"We can't keep going down this road much longer. We're nearing the edge of a cliff," Cruz said, referring to the current confrontational political climate. Shortly after, a heckler shouted, "Sen. Cruz, why don't you support a pathway to citizenship for immigrant families?"
The crowd booed the protester.
Cruz brushed it off, saying that it was great that people have First Amendment rights. "And I only wish the Obama administration respected First Amendment rights that much," he said. Just a few minutes later, Cruz was heckled again, and someone in the crowd responded, shouting, "Shut up! Shut up!"
The Texas senator blamed the hecklers on President Barack Obama.
"It seems President Obama's paid political operatives are out in force today," he said. "And you know why? Because the men and women in this room scare the living daylights out of them."
"I'm curious, is anybody left at the Organizing for America headquarters?" he said. "I’m actually glad that the president’s whole political staff is here instead of actually doing mischief in the country."
Cruz was heckled twice more by immigration protesters. Again, he blamed Obama. "How scared is the president?" he asked. The crowd chanted, "USA! USA! USA!"
Salvador Cervantes, one of the hecklers, told Huffpost that they came from a "bunch of organizations" and said some were from Florida and Maryland.
"He is one of the biggest opponents of this. He was very, very against it in the Senate, and he is against us despite that he is an immigrant," Cervantes told HuffPost. "We got the 26 Republicans who are supporting this and we do not understand why these people like Sen. Cruz are not supporting immigration reform."
Later on, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- who, unlike Cruz, backs immigration reform -- thanked his fellow senator for handling the hecklers.
Cruz also defended his push to defund Obamacare and use the debt ceiling and continuing resolution to fund the government as leverage, despite the fact that congressional Republicans had floated the idea of a six-week debt ceiling extension, and some Republican senators favor tacking on a six-week CR with it.
"It is because of you that the House of Representatives has been standing strong," he said. "The House has been listening to the people."
Cruz continued, "It is because of you that for the past two months, the country is engaged in a national debate about the enormous harms Obamacare is causing."
Cruz added that after his speech at the summit, he was leaving for a meeting at the White House with fellow Senate Republicans.
"If I'm never seen again, please send a search and rescue team," he said. "I very much hope tomorrow morning I don’t wake up amidst the Syrian rebels."
This is a developing story and has been updated.