GOP blocks advancing COVID-19 deal amid Trump-era immigration fight

Republicans on Tuesday blocked the Senate from advancing a $10 billion deal on coronavirus aid amid a stalemated fight over whether to attach a Trump-era immigration policy to the agreement.

Absent a breakthrough, the stalemate would delay the coronavirus bill until after a two-week break that is expected to start by Friday. To pass the deal before that, they would need buy-in from all 100 senators.

Senators voted 47-52 to advance legislation that’s being used as a vehicle for the coronavirus agreement, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move forward.

Tuesday’s vote came after Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) delayed forcing the same step late last week to attempt to show Republicans that he wasn’t trying to jam them as they worked out a bipartisan deal on the long-sought coronavirus aid.

But Republicans are warning that they won’t help move the coronavirus relief deal until they get an agreement with Schumer about getting votes on amendments.

Republicans want a vote on blocking the Biden administration from rescinding Title 42 — a Trump-era public health policy that allows for the rapid expulsion of migrants at the border due to the risk of the coronavirus — as part of a deal to speed up the coronavirus agreement. Title 42 also blocks migrants from seeking asylum.

“Before we’re going to move forward with the bill, we have to have an amendment process agreed to,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), predicting that once that is worked out, the agreement could get “well more than” 60 votes.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that that his caucus was pushing for a vote on Title 42 and other proposals that they want votes on.

“Yeah, I think there will have to be an amendment on Title 42 in order to move the bill. There are several other amendments that we’re going to want to offer, and so we’ll need to enter into some kind of agreement to process these amendments in order to go forward with the bill,” he said.

Part of the problem with granting Republicans a vote on Title 42 for Democrats is that it likely has enough support to be added to the coronavirus bill. Several moderate Democrats have criticized the Biden administration’s decision to rescind the Trump-era policy.

Though they need a formal decision by the Senate parliamentarian, Republicans believe that an amendment related to Title 42 could be added to the coronavirus bill if they can get a simple majority. In a 50-50 Senate, that means they would need to peel off only one Democratic vote.

Schumer could bring the bill back up and urged Republicans to “change their tune.”

“I want there to be no mistake about what just happened here on the Senate floor. Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill that would provide vaccines, testing and therapeutics for the American people. … This is a potentially devastating vote for every single American who is worried about the possibility of a new variant rearing its nasty head within a few months,” he said.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voted against advancing the coronavirus deal, saying that while he supported more aid, he could not “support siphoning off essential resources for rural communities, tribes and small businesses in Oregon and nationwide just to pad drug companies profits.”

The $10 billion deal would be paid for in part by redirecting funds from a local assistance and tribal consistency fund and small business administration funds.

Tags Chuck Schumer COVID-19 immigration migrants Mitch McConnell Ron Wyden southern border Title 42

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