Sinema to the rescue: Dem spending bill saved by senator just weeks after ditching party

Kyrsten Sinema
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Sinema to the rescue: Dem spending bill saved by senator just weeks after ditching party

Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema unveiled an amendment to the government omnibus spending bill that would extend the Title 42 immigration policy until a “proper plan” can replace it, potentially easing concerns of some Republican senators who threatened to vote against the spending legislation until concerns surrounding the southern border were resolved.

Sinema’s amendment comes just days before Congress must vote on its annual budget ahead of a Friday midnight deadline in order to avert a government shutdown. Lawmakers planned to vote on the $1.7 trillion spending plan on Thursday even as some GOP lawmakers threatened to stall the legislation until they could come to an agreement on Title 42, a public health statute that the Trump administration used to stem the flow of illegal immigration during the coronavirus pandemic.

Title 42 was set to expire on Wednesday but has since been extended by the Supreme Court after an emergency plea from 19 Republican-led states urging the court to keep the Trump-era policy.

Sinema’s amendment could save the Democratic spending bill, handing a win to the party from the Arizona senator who announced she would be leaving the party earlier this month to instead become an independent.

As part of her proposal, Sinema proposes allocating millions of dollars to go toward enhancing the immigration court process, increasing the number of attorneys prosecuting crimes committed at the border, strengthening detention for smugglers and other criminals who are apprehended, funding ICE transportation and detention, and expediting the deportation of illegal immigrants, among other provisions.

The termination of the border policy threatened to stall the annual budget legislation as Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) insisted earlier this week on including an amendment that would keep the pandemic-era policy in place. Lee’s opposition held outsize significance as a single senator can object to fast-tracking a vote on the spending bill, threatening the Senate’s ability to pass the omnibus with just hours before a government shutdown.

Several House Republicans also called on the Biden administration to provide answers and transparency for how it plans to deal with the migrant crisis at the southern border, according to a letter sent to the Biden administration on Wednesday and obtained by the Washington Examiner.

Title 42 was enacted in 2020 under the Trump administration in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. Under the public health order, border agents were permitted to expel immigrants immediately upon encountering them.

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Border Patrol agents made a record-breaking 2.3 million immigrant encounters during the 2022 fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs Border and Protection. But that number is expected to be even higher over the next fiscal year, especially if Title 42 is lifted.

Some progressive groups are calling on lawmakers to vote against Sinema’s amendment, making it unclear whether lawmakers will come to an agreement on the spending legislation before the midnight deadline.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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