Biden’s immigration move divides Democrats as GOP plots election-year strategy

Republicans said they gave him a hard time.

“It was a tough crowd, and you have to give them a lot of credit for picking the toughest crowd, going in and listening to them,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican who attended the private briefing, where Mayorkas appeared. voluntarily. “Nothing was really resolved, other than him making a promise to give a series of follow-up data.”

Added Rep. Brian Babin of Texas, co-chair of the caucus: “We appreciated his courage to come, knowing we were 100% opposed to him. But we weren’t satisfied with the answers he gave us.”

Asked if an impeachment proceeding could be launched against Mayorkas with a Republican majority, Babin replied: “It’s definitely on the table.”

As the thorny politics of immigration has caused a rift within the Democratic Party, with several of the party’s most vulnerable members rebelling against the Title 42 movement, Republicans see the issue as a rallying cry that will be central to their push. to recapture the House and Senate in the fall.

The Title 42 measure has upended efforts to pass a $10 billion Covid-19 relief bill, forced the Biden administration to quietly try to calm nerves on Capitol Hill, and could raise a host of tough questions. for Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra on Wednesday. when he appears before the House Budget Committee. Republicans say they’re not done yet, planning theater this week to consume the House floor and try to force votes on the issue, all an attempt to pressure vulnerable Democrats.

While some Democratic leaders say the policy should be lifted, they aren’t sure what political price they can pay for it.

“It’s the right thing to do, but I don’t know if it’s going to be a political issue or not,” Rep. Jerry Nadler, a Democrat from New York and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday.

The decision to end Title 42, which allowed immigrants to be turned away at the border instead of being processed under normal immigration rules during the global pandemic, is already causing problems on the legislative front, which could frustrate a push to approve $10 billion in the long term. – sought help to deal with the pandemic.

Republicans on Tuesday blocked an effort to advance the Covid relief plan as they demanded votes on the amendments, namely one to target Title 42 policy. But unlike many vulnerable Democrats, the leader of the Senate majority Chuck Schumer backed the White House measure on Title 42, saying the current policy “wreaked havoc on our asylum system.” And the New York Democrat is rejecting calls to vote on an amendment on the issue, a fight that could stall the package of vaccines and therapeutics for weeks.

“The bottom line is that this is a bipartisan agreement that does a great deal of important good for the American people: vaccines, tests, therapeutics,” Schumer said. “You shouldn’t be held hostage to a strange subject.”

Democrats seek to avoid a tough vote

At a private lunch Tuesday, a Senate Democrat told CNN that the consensus among Democrats was to try to avoid holding a vote on the measure. Such an amendment would divide Democrats, potentially pass the Senate, and threaten White House immigration policies while embarrassing the president.

Democrats in competitive re-election battles are now racing to distance themselves from President Joe Biden’s decision-making and bracing for the possibility of a surge of immigrants across the border, even as many acknowledge the pandemic-era rule cannot remain in perpetuity as a way to control the waves on the southern border.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Georgia Democrat close to the White House but also facing voters this year, made clear his displeasure with the administration’s move.

“I think this is the wrong time,” Warnock told CNN. “And I haven’t seen a plan.”

Several other Democrats in tough re-election battles echoed that sentiment.

ICE attorneys told to drop low-priority cases to clear backlog before surge

“There are options,” Sen. Mark Kelly, an Arizona Democrat seeking re-election in the fall, said when asked if he would support an amendment on the issue.

“Obviously there is no plan,” Kelly said. “This is a national security problem for the country, it is also a public health problem, not only for people in the communities of the southern border, but also for migrants. We need an orderly process.”

Management says it has a plan to deal with the expected increase.

US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus said that once the policy ends on May 23, they have taken a series of steps to prepare for the influx of migrants and tighten security at the border.

“We are doing everything we can to prepare for this surge, make sure we continue to prosecute people humanely, and impose consequences on those who break the law,” Magnus said in a statement. “At the same time, we will continue to use all available resources to secure our borders. This includes increased use of technology, on-the-ground monitoring, use of drones, and additional support personnel to supplement (Border Patrol) agents and free them.” . of processing duties whenever possible.”

But the Democratic chairs of the House and Senate homeland security committees remain unconvinced of the administration’s plan, even after receiving regular briefings from Mayorkas.

Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but also heads the Senate Democratic campaign committee, said Tuesday, “It’s important that the administration have a plan to deal with what will happen as a result of lifting” the policy even as he said he is “sure” he will eventually do so.

But when asked if he supports lifting Title 42, Peters said, “I want to see the plan, but it’s still a work in progress.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, met with Mayorkas Tuesday morning to discuss the issue and cautioned that he still wanted to see a stronger plan for how the Department of Homeland Security National plans to combat a possible increase in border crossings this summer.

“Obviously, the administration has to come up with policies that convince the public that this problem will be handled. Not controlled, but managed,” Thompson said. “Policies have to be clear… I’m told those policies are being worked on as we speak.”

Asked if he was convinced the administration’s policies will be able to combat a surge, he said, “Well, I’ll wait until I see the policy.”

Conservative Democrats are also backing down.

“Border security is everything,” said West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a leading moderate Democrat. “That’s it. And we have to clear our heads on this and get secure borders.”

The Republican Party outlines medium-term plans

House Republican leaders are eager to keep Title 42 in the spotlight, with a strategy that focuses heavily on messaging.

GOP leadership has encouraged Republicans to participate in a so-called conga line on Wednesday, according to GOP sources, in which members will line up on the House floor and repeatedly ask for unanimous consent to consider a bill. from Republican Rep. Yvette Herrell of New Mexico who would keep Trump-era politics in place.

And last week, sources said GOP leaders officially began drumming up support for a “dismissal petition” that would force a floor vote on that very bill if 218 lawmakers sign on to the effort. So far, 211 members have signed the petition: every House Republican, plus Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

Conservative Rep. Chip Roy of Texas filed the petition last year, but has since steadily generated support; the effort gained new momentum in the wake of Biden’s Title 42 announcement.

“What are they afraid of? Just put it down,” Roy said. “If you think it’s a bad policy, then put it on.”

Asked if he would support the firing request, Rep. Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat in a tough re-election race, said he would have to look into it. But Phillips also made it clear that he cares about Biden’s Title 42 decision and said he has begun to express some of those concerns to the White House.

“I have been to the southern border twice. It horrified me, as it should horrify any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, and any American,” she said. “And I agree that there needs to be a thoughtful and actionable plan before you terminate it. Plain and simple.”

“I would be shocked and dismayed if they don’t,” Phillips added. “Have I seen it? No.”

On Monday night, the House Republican conference held a briefing with border patrol agents to hear how the end of Title 42 will affect their operations, followed by a news conference on Capitol Hill.

“You know, President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, they said they would do something about it and they haven’t,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. “They have only opened it worse.”

Republicans have already made dozens of trips to the southern border since last year, with more in the works in the near future: McCarthy said he will lead another border trip later this month.

Republicans are confident that pushing Democrats on the border will not only energize their base, but also resonate with moderate and independent voters, especially as they have linked border security to the fentanyl crisis that has hit communities across the country. the country.

“It’s much more than alien crossing, it’s much more than drug crossing. This is a national security issue that will get even worse as time goes on this summer,” said Rep. John Katko of New York, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

One reason the GOP feels it has the political advantage: The Republican National Congressional Committee has shown members internal polling showing the border is a prominent issue in battleground districts, according to GOP sources. Republican Party.

Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, head of the House GOP campaign arm, told CNN, “Democrats will pay a political price for their incompetence.”

CNN’s Ted Barrett and Morgan Rimmer contributed to this report.

Leave a Comment