Still, a court ruling late Monday could give Biden some breathing room, as a federal judge announced plans to temporarily block the administration’s decision to end pandemic-era border restrictions. Without the move, Border Politics threatens to tear apart the Democratic Party and freeze a $10 billion bipartisan coronavirus aid deal that Republicans say should include at least one up or down vote on keeping the title. 42.
Additionally, Biden will soon ask Congress to provide more money for Ukraine’s defense against a Russian invasion. This bill, unless Title 42 is preserved by other means such as a court order, could be another opportunity for immigration policy to seep into the work of the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell turned the lens to Democrats on Monday when asked if he would push for a vote to delay the immigration policy change.
“There seem to be a lot of Democratic senators who want to speak on this,” he observed.
And a few hours later, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he wants the administration to review the bipartisan legislation he is co-sponsoring with the senator. James Lankford (R-Okla.) That would delay any ending of Title 42 without a detailed plan.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) said in an interview Monday, “I’m pretty clear: I didn’t support Title 42 at first, I don’t support repealing it now until there’s a plan to cope with the surge. [in migration] and tackling the broken immigration system. What nobody wants to do. She is not yet advocating for Tester’s bill, but is increasingly sounding the alarm over the Biden administration’s decision.
In 2014, President Barack Obama’s moves to loosen immigration limits also rattled his party and sent some centrist Democrats fleeing the administration. Since then, the courts have only become more conservative — sometimes avoiding difficult intraparty Democratic disputes during Biden’s presidency.
Another controversial Biden administration policy on Covid, the mandatory mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes, has also been blocked in federal courts, with few Democrats publicly leaning on the administration to fight the decision. Eight Democratic senators voted to overturn the mask rule, suggesting its popularity among Democratic lawmakers facing tough races had run its course and there was little political will to maintain it.
Headline 42 was even more explosive, with relatively few Democrats defending Biden and candidates across the board demanding a delay, more details and a plan from the administration. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who wrote the bipartisan Covid deal with Majority Leader chuck schumersaid the courts are the “800-pound gorilla” on these issues: “And they may have something to say about it.”
But border state Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) signaled that even a court delay won’t completely eliminate tension between Biden and members of his own party over Title 42.
“I would like to see a plan from the administration,” Kelly said. “The courts are separate from what we do here. It doesn’t change my requirement that I want them to have a plan that is workable.
Prior to the court’s decision, officials planned to provide more details early this week on how they would handle increased migration considered likely at the southern border if Title 42 ends. This was intended to allay some concerns among Democrats about how the administration has spoken about the change, with caucus members constantly asking the administration for a better plan and better public messaging.
“One of the reasons this divides us is that communication from the administration has not been clear,” the senator said. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “We did not get an answer to our questions. So that puts people in different positions.
Despite the court ruling, senators from both parties suggested on Monday that a floor vote on the policy may be inevitable, though the vehicle for doing so may not be popular aid to Ukraine or the bipartisan Covid package. In a sign that the problem isn’t going away, Title 42 surfaced at the GOP leadership meeting on Monday night, according to an attendee who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity and suggested Republicans are “committed” to raising it.
“We need a vote on this. This is really serious,” the senator said. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “I believe if we got a clear vote on this, there would be strong support to retain the 42 title.”
Some Senate Democrats are betting the court’s ruling could give Biden and Schumer a cushion of time before they have to tackle Title 42 head-on. Until then, the question is “difficult, very difficult,” a said the President of the Senate Judiciary. Dick Durbin (Dill.).