Republicans, Democrats Continue To Clash Over 'Title 42' Policy, Delaying Pandemic Relief

Monday, April 11th 2022, 6:23 pm


A planned vote on legislation to prop up pandemic programs with $10 billion has been postponed until at least after Congress returns from a two-week spring break, due to a mostly partisan debate over whether to end the use of a policy that allows migrants to be expelled before they can apply for asylum.

Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had come to an agreement on scaled down COVID relief funding early last week, but Republicans and some moderate Democrats later made clear their support depended on also getting a vote on an amendment to keep the expulsion policy, known as Title 42, from being discontinued on May 23, as the CDC was planning to announce.

Title 42 is a rarely used public health measure to minimize the spread of communicable diseases by limiting the number of migrants entering the country; then-President Trump put it in place in March 2020 and President Biden let it remain in place, despite complaints from asylum rights supporters who contend that Title 42 is being misused as an immigration tool and not in the true interest of public health.

With the CDC saying that improving conditions related to the pandemic mean use of Title 42 is no longer warranted -- and the Biden administration in apparent agreement -- Republicans see inconsistency.

"I think our biggest issue is with this is there’s a request from the administration saying, ‘We need $10 billion more because of the pandemic,’" said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) at a committee hearing last week, "while there’s also a decision to say, ‘The pandemic’s over. The risk is over at the border.’"

The administration and most Democrats don't see this as inconsistent at all. The additional COVID funding is needed, they say, to make sure the nation is not caught unprepared when there's another surge in cases and hospitalizations.

"The program that reimburse doctors, pharmacists and other providers for vaccinating the uninsured had to end yesterday due to a lack of funds," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing last week. "America's supply of monoclonal antibodies that are effective at keeping people out of the hospital will run out as soon as late May. And our test manufacturing capacity will begin ramping down at the end of June."

"COVID is not over and we have an obligation to protect our country, the American people and make sure we're taking steps to prepare," said Psaki.

But Republicans and moderate Democrats point out the administration has acknowledged that discontinuing the use of Title 42 will lead to a surge in border crossings, at a time when they are already at record highs. They want a vote on an amendment to require the policy be kept in place at least until the administration can demonstrate that it has a plan to handle that surge.


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