Senate Democrats sought political cover on Thursday as Republicans forced a vote on whether to maintain a Trump-era immigration policy that has Democrats divided.
Eight Democratic senators — Jon Tester (Mont.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Jacky Rosen (Nev.), Jon Ossoff (Ga.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Maggie Hassan (N.H.) — along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) voted for an alternate amendment to protect Title 42, which allows for migrants to be quickly expelled at the border without asylum processing.
Five of the nine are up for reelection in 2024.
The amendment, brought by Sinema and Tester, sought to extend the Trump-era policy and boost border funding. It is one of more than a dozen amendments senators had to vote on Thursday to pass a larger government funding omnibus.
Only one Republican, Sen. Thom Tillis (N.C.) voted “yes” on the measure, which failed 10-87, despite broad GOP support for Title 42.
Democrats offered the amendment after efforts to pass a bipartisan $1.7 trillion omnibus for fiscal 2023 hit a roadblock the day before over another amendment, brought by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), that aimed to cut funding for the office of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas if Title 42 was not reinstated.
No Democrats voted for Lee’s amendment and it failed in a 47-50 vote along party lines shortly after.
Republicans claimed ahead of the vote that the Sinema-Tester amendment, which needed to meet a 60-vote threshold for approval, was designed to fail.
Pressed by reporters about the amendment on Thursday, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) argued it shows Democrats “don’t want to continue Title 42.”
“It was set up not to pass,” he added.
Title 42 has spurred division amongst Democrats. Republican leaders claimed late Wednesday that Democrats didn’t want to agree to a simple majority-vote threshold for Lee’s amendment because they were concerned it would pass with some Democratic support.
Democrats also said attaching the amendment to the omnibus could have hurt support within the party for the larger funding bill, especially in the House, where Republican leaders are actively urging rank-and-file members to vote against the entire bill.
The push by Lee also arrived as Republicans face an internal rift in the party over whether to pass the omnibus.
Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have championed the omnibus for funding boosts secured for defense programs above the rate of inflation, as well as the opposite for nondefense spending.
But many Republicans between the House and Senate have pushed for Congress to temporarily freeze government funding at fiscal 2022 levels into next year to allow the incoming GOP-led House more influence in talks.
“Since 1954, the party in control of the House of Representatives has shifted from one party to another a total of just five times,” Lee, one of those Republicans, said days back while leading an effort to kick a deadline to set new government funding to the next Congress.
“And [in] exactly zero of those instances did Congress come back after that election and during a lame-duck session enact sweeping, comprehensive spending legislation,” he added.
Al Weaver contributed.