Senate Democrats open door to giving GOP Title 42 vote

Senate Democrats say a growing number of their caucus are open to giving Republicans a vote on a Trump-era border policy if it means breaking a logjam on stalled coronavirus aid.

The open door is a shift from last month, when Republicans blocked a $10 billion deal on coronavirus relief because Democrats refused to give them an amendment vote on Title 42, the Trump-era pandemic public health policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border and blocks them from seeking asylum.

Republicans view the two issues as related because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to lift the border health policy while the broader public health emergency is still in place. 

“Most of the Democrats are prepared — they know how they are going to vote,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, asked if there was a growing openness within the caucus for having a Title 42 vote as part of the coronavirus bill. 

Asked about the coronavirus funds, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), leaving a closed-door caucus lunch, said that “there’s a growing willingness to bring that up and have the amendment votes necessary to get it to a final vote.”

Neither Murphy nor Durbin knew what the vote threshold would be for a border amendment vote. 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to say if he would give Republicans a Title 42 vote, noting he would wait to see what bill gets sent over by the House. 

“When the House passes it, we will do everything we can to get COVID legislation passed,” Schumer said. 

The growing willingness to have a vote on the Trump-era policy comes after Democrats decided to separate Ukraine funding and coronavirus relief money, leaving the funds for vaccinations without a clear path forward unless they cut a deal with Senate Republicans. 

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) has introduced a proposal that would tie Title 42 to the broader public health emergency, blocking the administration from lifting it. 

If Lankford gets a simple majority vote, his bill has enough Democratic support to get it added into the coronavirus bill. 

That vote could also put several 2022 incumbents in a tough spot. Several Democratic senators have criticized the administration’s decision to lift Title 42, and Republicans view the border as a prime election issue. 

Asked what his message would be to incumbents who could see a Title 42 vote as a tough vote, Durbin said, “I sympathize with them.”

“Schumer has tried to get us into a circumstance where that’s not called but there’s just some things that you can’t achieve,” he added.