With Title 42 set to expire next month and experts anticipating a massive wave of migrants on the southern border, a Senate effort to vote on extending the rule is on a collision course with a COVID-19 funding bill.
“It’s not unreasonable for the Senate to consider these issues during debate on any future request for federal COVID funds,” Senate Minority Whip John Thune, RS.D., told Fox News. “The pandemic can’t simultaneously be over for those who attempt to illegally cross the border but be too dangerous for everyone else that we need to pass emergency funds to respond to it.”
“Ending Title 42 will be a national security and humanitarian disaster for Americans,” Senate Republican Conference Chair John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Told Fox News. “It is the height of hypocrisy to end this important public health tool at the very same moment Democrats are seeking billions more for COVID. The Biden administration can’t have it both ways and Republicans will fight to keep Title 42 safeguards in place.”
Title 42 was implemented by former President Donald Trump during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for people crossing the southern border, especially single adults, to be more easily deported. President Biden left the policy in place for over a year despite pressure from progressives.
But with much of the country moving past COVID-19, Biden announced recently that he would lift Title 42, effective May 23.
Democrats are pushing for additional COVID-19 funding as one of their top priorities. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., negotiated a compromise package of $ 10 billion earlier this month with Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, with the goal of quickly approving the money.
But Republicans upset about the Title 42 decision indicated that they will filibuster the package of virus aid until they’re allowed to vote on an amendment to the bill that would keep Title 42 in effect. Some Democrats are joining them.
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“Senate Democrats – one after the next, it seems – are sounding the alarm on President Biden’s haphazard border policy,” Thune said. “How many will it take for the president and his administration to realize that abruptly rescinding this border policy will worsen the open-border migrant surge?”
Among the key Democrats who oppose the president’s Title 42 decision are Sens. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. Even Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Gary Peters of Michigan said he’s concerned, according to Politico.
Kelly, Masto and Hassan are notably in tough re-election races.
“The Biden administration was wrong to set an end date for Title 42 without a comprehensive plan in place,” Kelly said in a statement on a bill he, Hassan, Sinema and Manchin introduced to keep Title 42 in place for 60 more days. “We need a secure, orderly and humane response at our southern border and our bipartisan legislation holds the Biden administration accountable to that.”
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Democratic Party leaders, including those in the White House, however, say it’s Republicans who are playing with fire if the government runs out of virus money.
“What is happening right now is they’re essentially holding hostage funding for COVID. And we are going to run out of funding,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the stakes of the standoff.
Schumer said it shouldn’t be “held hostage for an extraneous issue.”
A spokesperson for Kelly said he continues to support the Title 42 bill and the compromise COVID-19 funding legislation, but did not directly address the senator’s thoughts on the GOP push for a Title 42 amendment vote. Spokespersons for Sinema, Peters, Masto, Hassan, Tester and Manchin did not respond to requests for comment from Fox News asking about the amendment vote push.
Republicans appear confident that they have enough votes to filibuster the coronavirus spending bill if Schumer refuses to call a vote on their amendment, and to pass it if he does. Romney tweeted earlier this month that there’s “broad support” for the virus funding bill but said there must be a “sufficient amendment process.”
Republicans also appear open to a deal that would set a 60-vote threshold for a vote on the Title 42 amendment in exchange for Schumer quickly bringing a vote.
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“I think it’s hard to say right now where the votes would land without knowing what a potential universe of amendments looks like, whether or not they get votes, and what the underlying bill ultimately looks like,” a GOP aide told Fox News. “My guess is that Schumer knows he’d lose a vote at 51, so he’d either push for a 60-vote threshold or try to scuttle it from happening altogether. If it’s the latter, will be much harder to get GOP votes. . “
A deal for a vote at a 60-vote threshold on the amendment would align with a practice sometimes used by the Senate when a minority is demanding a vote on an amendment the majority is highly invested in blocking.
“You will accept the higher threshold on your amendment if the majority leader does not fill the [bill’s amendment tree] and lets you offer it, “said R Street Institute senior fellow for governance James Wallner.” You’s just cutting to the end of it. You’re not forcing everybody to go through all the cloture hurdles. “
“[If] Republicans now are going to accept the 60-vote threshold… I think they’re doing it because they just want the issue in the campaign, “Wallner said.
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But there is plenty of cynicism on Democrats’ side of the aisle too, Wallner added.
“I do not want to sound condescending here, but at what point did getting a vote on an amendment become a deal-breaker in the United States Senate?” Wallner said.
Part of the background for Schumer’s handling of the issue is the fact it’s an election year, Wallner said.
“Immigration is one of those issues that is a lot more divisive, or I guess cross-cutting in the Senate than most people think,” Wallner said. “So both sides generally try to keep it away from the floor when they are in control.”
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Wallner added: “Especially before a big election when you do not want to reveal a lot of divisions in our party, it makes sense in Schumer’s position, he wants to avoid that, especially given the ongoing tension between moderates and progressives.”
Fox News’ Marisa Schultz and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.