Biden border move opens rift among Senate Democrats

58% dissatisfied with level of immigration into the U.S.; 34% satisfied New 69% high of Republicans want less immigration/Gallup

A number of Democrats even signed on to opposing legislation. Some, such as Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., face close reelection races. 

By Suzanne Monyak and Caroline Simon | Roll Call

The Biden administration’s latest decision to lift border restrictions has laid bare a key disagreement in the Senate Democratic caucus, threatening to frustrate legislative efforts ahead of midterm elections where Republicans hope to flip control of Congress.

The administration plan to rescind a pandemic policy next month that restricted migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, known as Title 42, has divided Democrats as they cling to the slimmest of majorities, a 50-50 lineup where Vice President Kamala Harris provides a tie-breaking vote.

Most Democratic senators — including Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. — had urged President Joe Biden to end the controversial public health directive that has been in place for more than two years. But several moderate Democrats in recent weeks have echoed their Republican colleagues on concerns about a potential migration influx when the asylum restrictions are lifted.

Republicans see an opening to force tough votes for some Democrats who face acute pressure as they seek reelection in close races this November. Last week, Republicans blocked a pandemic aid package because Democratic leadership did not want to allow a vote on an amendment to force Biden to keep the Title 42 policy.

After that, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pointed to the border, along with inflation and crime, as the three top legislative priorities for Senate Republicans if they take control in November — a sign that the party’s candidates will make it an issue.

And several Republican senators signaled they would support forcing the Title 42 issue again on future bills. “I think we’ll be doing this as long as we can,” South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said.

Democratic split

A number of Democrats have spoken out against the Biden administration’s move and even signed on to a bill to stop it. Some, such as Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., face close reelection races. Others, including Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., have concerns reflective of their conservative states.

In Arizona, for instance, Biden edged out former President Donald Trump by just 0.3 percentage points in the 2020 elections. Kelly beat his opponent, Republican incumbent Martha McSally, by a slightly higher margin in the year’s special election. Immigration remains a major issue in the border state, a former Republican stronghold that has become a bellwether in national trends.

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