Mitch McConnell to block coronavirus aid unless it prohibits Biden from repealing Title 42
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Republicans were not budging from demands that any new coronavirus aid package includes language blocking President Biden from rescinding a pandemic emergency order that helped block illegal aliens from entering the U.S.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said that without an up or down vote on an amendment prohibiting the White House from removing the emergency order — known as Title 42 — there will be no deal.
“The border is already entirely too open,” the minority leader said. “Pulling back the Title 42 authority will make it dramatically worse.”
Title 42 gives the federal government the power to immediately expel would-be migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The White House has sought to bring the policy to an end by May 23, arguing that the coronavirus threat was receding.
A federal judge put those plans in limbo on Monday by issuing a ruling halting the recision. Given that the issue is headed toward a protracted court battle, GOP lawmakers say they will push forward with a legislative solution.
“We still need to address it,” said Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican. “It’s still this bizarre policy that they’re trying to put in place where COVID is toxic in some places and not in others.”
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At the moment, Republicans say their best vehicle for blocking the White House from canceling the immigration order is a $10 billion coronavirus aid bill. Negotiated in a bipartisan fashion, the legislation appeared on a glide path this month until Mr. Biden announced his decision to revoke Title 42.
Republicans blocked its consideration earlier this month, however, after Senate Democrats refused to allow a vote on an amendment blocking Title 42 from being canceled.
“Democrats actually want Congress to approve more funding specifically because COVID is not finished,” Mr. McConnell said. “The Biden administration’s official position is that the pandemic is over for illegal immigrants but not for the American people.”
White House officials have bashed the GOP’s tactics, saying it will only prevent the government from being able to purchase more monoclonal-antibody treatments as well as additional booster shots.
“None of these are going to be available to the American people if we don’t get more funding,” said White House COVID-19 Coordinator Ashish Jha.
Despite the urgent need for the money, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has refused to give in to GOP demands.
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The New York Democrat’s decision is mainly political.
Nearly half a dozen Democratic senators have pushed back on Mr. Biden’s decision to rescind the order. If an amendment were to come up in the Senate that required a simple majority, it would likely pass with significant Democratic support.
“Until we have comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform that commits to securing our borders and providing a pathway to citizenship for qualified immigrants, Title 42 must stay in place,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat and a key swing vote.
Complicating matters is that the House Democrats are already undecided about the coronavirus package after Senate negotiators gutted $5 billion for global vaccine distribution.
Since the Democratic divisions could wind up tanking the entire deal, Mr. Schumer is hoping to strong-arm Republicans into dropping their demands.
“The Senate Republicans, to a person, blocked the ability to move forward and get this legislation done because they wanted to play politics and inject extraneous issues into the debate,” Mr. Schumer said. “But it’s not going to deter us from getting this done.”
Senior Democrats say the only potential way forward is to pair the coronavirus aide with Mr. Biden’s push to approve more military and humanitarian funding for Ukraine. Proponents of the idea believe they can shame Republicans into abandoning their calls for an amendment on keeping Title 42 in place, lest they be made to look weak on combating Russian aggression.