Government Funding Bill Stalled by Sen. Mike Lee’s Attempt to Keep Title 42 in Place
Government Funding Bill Stalled by Sen. Mike Lee’s Attempt to Keep Title 42 in Place

By Katabella Roberts

The efforts of Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) to continue keeping Title 42 in place are delaying the passage of the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill before a government shutdown.

Lee’s amendment to the bipartisan bill would cut funding for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’s office unless the Biden administration reinstates the Trump-era policy, which allows Border Patrol agents to expel illegal aliens immediately without asylum processing if they are deemed to pose a health threat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Nov. 16, a federal judge ruled that Title 42 was unlawful and ordered the Biden administration to end it by Dec. 21. However, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts recently halted the lower court’s order to end it after a slew of Republican states filed an emergency application seeking to reverse the lower court’s decision.

The 19 Republican-led states warned that doing so would “needlessly endanger more Americans and migrants by exacerbating the catastrophe that is occurring at our southern border.”

The U.S. Capitol is seen as the sun sets in Washington on Dec, 20, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats ‘Want Absolute Pandemonium and Chaos on the Border’

Lee told Fox News on Wednesday that the 4,155-page bill is “full of Democratic priorities that does nothing to protect the border,” adding that he suggested the amendment on whether to preserve Title 42 because it is the “only thing standing between us and utter chaos.” Lee added that he wants an up or down vote on the amendment.

“Sen. Chuck Schumer [D-N.Y.] and the Democrats are terrified of an up or down vote. Why? Because they want absolute pandemonium and chaos on the border and because they will lose,” Lee said, adding that he will be standing “firm” on the amendment.

He added that “no Republican should be supporting this measure” and instead advocated for a short-term spending bill that will keep the government running until the New Year, when the incoming Republican majority will take control of the House, giving them more say in how the government should be funded for the fiscal year 2023.

Title 42 has been used millions of times to expel aliens since March 2020 and lawmakers, predominantly those from Republican-led states, fear that removing the policy could further exacerbate an already critical border crisis.

Earlier this week, El Paso, Texas Mayor Oscar Leeser warned that there are roughly 20,000 illegal aliens waiting to cross the border as soon as the Trump-era program ends.

Leeser has declared a state of emergency.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent instructs immigrants who had crossed the Rio Grande into El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 19, 2022 as seen from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. (John Moore/Getty Images)

‘Republicans Are Willing to Work With Democrats’

The $1.7 trillion omnibus is the product of long-running negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress and includes $858 billion in military spending and $772.5 billion for non-defense discretionary programs.

Also included in the bill is $44.9 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and America’s NATO allies.

Politico reported that Senate Democrats offered to vote on Lee’s Title 42 amendment to reach the 60-vote threshold before it can be included in the spending package. However, Senate Republicans want to lower the vote threshold to 51.

On Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) took aim at Democrats for refusing to allow a vote on Lee’s amendment, calling it “outrageous.”

“The Lee amendment is relevant to the underlying legislation and represents good policy for the United States,” Graham wrote on Twitter. “Republicans are willing to work with Democrats, but not at all costs. However, if the omnibus – which dramatically increases military spending and funds the government – fails because Democrats care more about letting Title 42 lapse than funding the federal government, so be it.”

Meanwhile, Schumer said on the Senate floor on Wednesday that lawmakers are making “good progress” in negotiations, but added that “as a procedural safeguard, I am filing cloture.” That will force a final vote on the spending bill to Friday or Saturday.

“But I’m hopeful, very hopeful, we will lock in an agreement shortly,” Schumer said.

White House assistant press secretary Abdullah Hasan told reporters on Dec. 16 after the appeals court ruling that lifting Title 42 “does not mean the border is open.”

“We will continue to fully enforce our immigration laws and work to expand legal pathways for migration while discouraging disorderly and unsafe migration,” he added. “We have a robust effort underway to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way when Title 42 lifts as required by court order.”

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