Senate GOP demands vote on Title 42 in exchange for passage of $10 billion more in COVID spending

Republicans want to include an amendment opposing the roll back of the Title 42 immigration policy in the latest COVID spending bill.

Senate Republicans made clear Tuesday they won't vote in favor of a bipartisan bill to spend an additional $10 million on COVID-19 unless they can vote on an amendment to the measure to keep in place federal immigration policy known as Title 42. 

The measure being brokered by Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer for spending on COVID-19 therapeutics, vaccines, and testing that was not included in the recently passed, $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill signed into law March 15 by President Biden. 

Title 42 is a 1940s law used by the Trump administration at the start of the pandemic, as a public health issue, to keep foreigners from bringing the virus with them into the United States. 

The Biden administration will on May 23 end the use of the law to remove immigrants seeking asylum in the U.S.  

"There’s going to have to be an amendment on Title 42 in order to move the bill," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said earlier this week. 

On Tuesday, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to advance the bill, with the chamber set to adjourn Thursday or Friday for a two-week recess. And any chance of passage will be complicated by efforts to get a final Supreme Court appointment vote for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson before the recess. 

"I don’t think there are probably 10 Republican votes at the moment for a process that doesn’t at least include an amendment vote on Title 42, perhaps among other amendments," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate's No. 2 Republican, according to Politico. "Republicans aren't wild about the bill anyway, so they feel comfortable digging their heels in. 

Top Senate Democrats are hesitant to include the Title 42 amendment vote, considering its passage would likely kill the entire bill in the Democrat-led House, which is more liberal than the Democrat-controlled Senate.

However, rank-and-file Senate Democrats are also concerns about ending the use of Title 42 – without a definitive plans to address the annual surge of immigrants this spring at the southern U.S. border.

"It’s clear to me after my discussions with the White House and [the Department of Homeland Security] that there is not a plan in place on how to deal with the lifting of Title 42," Arizona Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly said. "I’m concerned with folks on the southern border in my state and other states, also the health and safety of the migrants."

Other Democrats opposing the upcoming end to using Title 42 as a pandemic policy include Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia; Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona; Catherine Cortez Mastro, of Nevada; and Raphael Warnock, of Georgia.  

Schumer says he does not want to the package to "be held hostage for an extraneous issue."