(Adds Sen. Tester letter in 10th paragraph.)
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Republicans are aiming to force a vote on the Biden administration’s repeal of a pandemic-related restriction on border crossings, a move likely to create headaches in the Democratic caucus.
The amendment is likely to be considered as part of a Covid-19 relief measure in the Senate. “There will have to be an amendment on Title 42 in order to move the bill,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday, referring to the public health authority used to expel many asylum-seekers and other migrants at the border since 2020.
The Biden administration announced it would terminate the policy by late May, sparking outrage from Republicans who says the decision is the latest example of lax border security from President Joe Biden.
Democrats need Republican cooperation to schedule floor time for the Covid-19 package ahead of an upcoming two-week recess.
A vote on an amendment that attempts to restore Title 42 would likely create tension in the Democratic caucus, with at least four members opposed to ending the policy.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who last week called the end of Title 42 a “frightening decision,” said it wouldn’t affect his vote on the pandemic relief package.
“I’m not going to hold Covid relief up and the well-being of the citizens of the United States on policy,” he said in a hallway interview.
Other moderate Democrats sounded less certain. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who also opposes the end of Title 42, said he was open to options for managing the border but didn’t say whether he would support a GOP amendment.
“Certainly I’ll look at any proposals that people have, but at the end of the day this is about having a plan for border security,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said of Republicans’ amendment plans in a hallway interview.
Hassan last week said she wasn’t convinced the Biden administration had adequately planned for the anticipated increase in border crossings when Title 42 sunsets. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also pushed back on the decision, while Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security Tuesday demanding information on how the policy change will be carried out.
Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said the exact language of Title 42 amendments is still being worked out, and Republicans will consult with the Senate parliamentarian about which measures would be considered germane to the Covid-19 package.
“Until we actually get into a discussion with Democrats about a process, it’s hard to say what amendments, if any, might be included,” he told reporters.
With assistance from Zach C. Cohen
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at email@example.com