GOP blocks Senate COVID bill over push for Title 42 restoration

Senate Republicans blocked Democrats’ latest attempt to move forward with $10 billion in new COVID-19-related spending Tuesday, insisting on the inclusion of an amendment that would keep the Title 42 health policy in place at the southern border.

All 50 Republicans voted against moving forward with the bill, along with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) switched his vote to “no” at the last minute in order to bring the measure to the floor again. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) did not submit a vote. 

Democrats will need 60 votes in order to move the package for debate and an eventual vote. The Biden administration and Democratic leadership are looking to approve the legislation before Congress breaks for its two-week recess on Friday.  

Ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned Republicans would kill the effort, telling reporters that an amendment must be added to the legislation keeping the policy allowing for summary migrant expulsions in place after the Biden administration announced it would be scrapped next month.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer switched his vote to “no” at the last minute.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“There’ll have to be an amendment on Title 42 to move the bill,” McConnell said. “We’ll need to enter into some kind of agreement to process these amendments in order to go forward with the bill.” 

Schumer accused Republicans of holding the package “hostage” and White House press secretary Jen Psaki described the vote outcome as “disappointing,” claiming the legislation is a “much-needed bill to purchase vaccines, boosters, and life-saving treatments for the American people.”

“As we have repeatedly said, there are consequences for Congress failing to fund our COVID Response,” Psaki said in a statement. “The program that reimbursed doctors, pharmacists and other providers for vaccinating the uninsured had to end today due to a lack of funds. America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies that are effective at keeping people out of the hospital will run out as soon as late May. Our test manufacturing capacity will begin ramping down at the end of June.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Republicans would kill the effort to pass the new bill.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

“Today’s Senate vote is a step backward for our ability to respond to this virus. We will continue to work with the House and Senate to move this vital legislation forward.”

The White House warned last month it needed billions in new funding to shore up America’s defenses against COVID-19, while Republicans argue unused funding from previous aid bills should be repurposed.

Title 42 was first imposed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020, at the outset of the pandemic, and has allowed border officials to immediately expel nearly 2 million migrants who have attempted to enter the US without hearing asylum claims. 

Members of both parties have slammed the administration for lifting Title 42, citing both the ongoing pandemic and the expected migrant influx. 

“Prematurely ending Title 42 without a comprehensive, workable plan would put at risk the health and safety of Arizona communities and migrants,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said last week, adding that she will keep “pushing for transparency and accountability from the Administration to help secure the border, keep Arizona communities safe, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”

President Joe Biden
Republicans, fearing a huge rush at the border, are demanding President Biden restore Title 42.

Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) called the move “frightening.”

“Title 42 has been an essential tool in combating the spread of COVID-19 and controlling the influx of migrants at our southern border. We are already facing an unprecedented increase in migrants this year, and that will only get worse if the Administration ends the Title 42 policy,” he said. “We are nowhere near prepared to deal with that influx.”