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Senate Democrats are weighing a push for supplemental border security funding, a move that could alleviate concerns within the caucus and defuse a potentially divisive vote attached to a Covid-19 aid package.
Democrats are divided on plans to end Title 42, which has allowed US officials to quickly expel migrants at the border since 2020. Republicans and several Democrats want to force a vote on an amendment to keep Title 42 in place while Covid-19 public health emergencies are still in effect.
An alternative amendment, such as the prospective border supplemental, could give moderate Democrats a chance to show they’re committed to border security without tying the administration’s hands on Title 42, which it wants to end later this month. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) said a border supplemental is one of a variety of options on the table.
“We’re looking at other ways to make sure that we’re working to secure our borders,” he said. “Our caucus is interested in making sure the American people know we are about secure borders.”
An early Covid-19 package was blocked due to concerns about allowing a vote on Title 42.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told lawmakers last month his department was trying to move money around to address needs at the border but would request supplemental funding if needed. The department is prepared for as many as 18,000 migrants each day when the policy ends.
Court Action Looms
Peters said a federal court is likely to issue a ruling this week that could keep the border policy in place for the foreseeable future, potentially tamping down pressure for lawmakers to take action. The US District Court for the Western District of Louisiana heard oral arguments last week on GOP state leaders’ bid for a preliminary injunction.
Several Senate Republicans have been clear that Covid-19 aid can’t advance without a vote on the border policy. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said lawmakers have talked about how to move the aid package “but not discussions that can go forward without solving the other problem” of Title 42.
At least one leading Democratic critic of the Biden administration’s plans said he’ll still push for a Title 42 vote even if the court issues an injunction that keeps Title 42 in place.
“The court decision doesn’t say there should be a plan for lifting Title 42,” Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) said Tuesday, referencing his concerns that DHS isn’t sufficiently prepared for an increase in migrant arrivals when the policy ends. Kelly is a cosponsor of a bipartisan Title 42 bill (S. 4036) that backers have pledged to attach to a Covid-19 aid package.
Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), who has also criticized the administration’s plans, said he expects to take a vote on Title 42 regardless of what the court does.
With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at email@example.com