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Pandemic Aid Bill Stalls Amid Dispute Over Immigration Restrictions


“It will require, I think, several amendments in order to get across the floor,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader. “So if the majority leader tries to move forward, we’ll have to have a discussion about a reasonable amendment process.”

While Republicans have pushed for other amendments, the most politically fraught provision they hoped to put to a vote would bar the Biden administration from ending the Trump-era pandemic restrictions at the border, which have granted officials the ability to turn away migrants, including those seeking asylum.

In announcing plans on Friday to end the order in late May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited “current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight Covid-19.” But Republicans argued that it was contradictory for the administration to implement that policy change while asking Congress to approve more pandemic aid.

“Getting that money replenished is significantly complicated by announcing in the same week that you’re going to determine that Section 42 of this effort to fight this disease is no longer necessary because the disease is no longer the same kind of problem it was,” said Senator Roy Blunt, Republican of Missouri. “It’s clearly a big issue with our members.”

Multiple Democrats, including senators facing tough re-election contests in November, have said they have concerns about the decision to roll back the policy, given that it is expected to draw thousands more migrants to the southwestern border, where stations are already backed up and overcrowded. On Tuesday, Senator Jon Tester of Montana became the latest Democrat to ask the administration to provide “a comprehensive plan on how it will address the increased strain on our immigration system and increased security needs.”

Some of those Democrats, including Senators Mark Kelly of Arizona and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, declined to say whether they would support a Republican amendment, given that text has not been released. But if even one Democrat were to back it, the amendment could pass the evenly divided Senate. That would most likely kill the funding package in the House, where most Democrats have cheered the Biden administration’s decision to end the immigration rule.

Democrats in both chambers have also grumbled over the decision to jettison $5 billion for global vaccination efforts, which was removed from the funding package after senators could not agree on how to pay for it. Republicans refused to back any new money for responding to the pandemic, so negotiators had to agree on repurposing funds Congress already approved in previous legislation.



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