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Top congressional Democrats are signaling they want to come to a consensus position on Title 42 amid harsh criticism from their own members of President Biden’s plan to roll it back and unrelenting political attacks from Republicans.
“We’re going to be working through this to see if we can come to a position that we can agree to because there’s divisions there now,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said this week.
“I’m not going to say what agreement like that would look like because I don’t want to prejudge… our negotiations or discussions,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said when asked if similar conversations are happening with his members. “But I’m hopeful we’ll get an agreement on that.”
“That’s being worked on,” he added. But, Hoyer said, GOP “demagoguery” on the Title 42 issue is not helping matters.
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Title 42 was put in place by former President Donald Trump’s administration early in the pandemic to make it easier to quickly deport many migrants. Biden kept in place for over a year but recently set a date of May 23 for it to be rescinded, citing improving pandemic conditions.
But Republicans and many Democrats — particularly moderates and those up for re-election — panned the decision as premature due to an expected migrant surge that would result from Title 42’s removal.
The comments from Hoyer and Schumer don’t represent a full break with the president. Schumer in particular called for Title 42 to end going back to last year. But the statements may indicate that Democratic leaders think being in lockstep with the White House on Title 42 is untenable given dissension in their ranks, and they need a compromise stance all their members can back.
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Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chair Gary Peters, D-Mich., warned the rollback was unwise earlier this month. Peters also said talks are ongoing for a compromise position among congressional Democrats Wednesday.
“There are a lot of discussions on how we deal with the southern border and immigration broadly. So certainly those conversations are ongoing,” Peters told Fox News Digital. “I think we don’t want to negotiate that all in public right now. But, so those conversations are occurring.”
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Republicans say Democrats are only taking this step because they believe a Title 42 rollback will hurt them in the midterms.
“It seems to me that somebody with half a brain has finally taken over,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News Digital. “It’s a retreat, it’s about to blow up in their face… They’re trying to distance themselves from the dumbest policy in the world. Now, the only reason they’re doing it is because of politics.”
The White House, meanwhile is touting a plan released by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to handle an anticipated border surge when Title 52 is lifted. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier this week that unless Congress actually passes legislation, decisions on Title 42 rest within the executive branch and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Well, that’s just not how it works. Obviously, Title 42 is — the authority was given to the CDC by Congress. They made a decision,” Psaki said when asked about Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., calling for Title 42 to stay. “If Congress wants to decide — make any decisions about the next steps for Title 42, they can work together on that. But that is an authority or a decision that… would have to lay in the body that he works in.”
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Nevertheless, some key vulnerable moderate senators Wednesday said they’re not satisfied with Mayorkas’ plan to handle the border. And they said they’re not sure of any compromise position among congressional Democrats yet.
“I can only tell you where I am right now,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said when asked about Schumer’s comments. “What I’m concerned about and is clear is the fact that I don’t see a comprehensive plan. That’s where we need to be and I am looking forward to talking with DHS and HHS and trying to get answers.”
“I’m always looking for compromise,” Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said. “But in my case it would have to include that either we have a comprehensive plan that we put the stuff in place, or that we don’t lift Title 42.”
“We’ve got an arbitrary date that’s just kind of pulled out of the air that’s… less than 30 days from now. And there is a lot that would have to be put in place for me to get to the point where I would be comfortable lifting Title 42,” Kelly said.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Vice Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., downplayed divisions among Democrats, especially compared to the fractious House GOP caucus that Jeffries called a “cult.”
“We always work to try to find the highest common denominator amongst us and that’s what we do. We’re not a cult we’re coalition,” Jeffries said Wednesday. “We always are going to engage in a process of trying to discuss our different public policy perspectives, and then find the highest common denominator to advance the ball for the American people.”
“I appreciate that the Senate wants to try to find consensus I would appreciate also if they acted on some of the immigration related bills that we have sent over to them in a bipartisan way,” Aguilar said.