Sinema on the end of Title 42: The WH “chose not to prepare adequately”
In a rare Q&A session with reporters, the Arizona senator called Biden’s approach “aspirational, not operational.” Plus: An exclusive with a new House Dem on why George Santos is a “welfare queen.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Title 42 expired at midnight and although the Biden administration is projecting confidence it can handle the expected surge of people approaching the southern border, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are skeptical the White House will meet the moment.
One of them is Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, most known in national politics as the roadblock to the more ambitious aspects of President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda.
And in a rare move on Thursday, she spoke to reporters from outlets including Supercreator for roughly 25 minutes with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina on why she believed ending Title 42 was premature and how a bill she and Tillis introduced last week would give the administration the lifeline it needs to produce a more robust response to the crisis on the ground. (Sinema speaks so infrequently to reporters that as she walked into the Senate press gallery, she was overheard asking where to sit: “I don’t do a lot of press.”)
Sinema was asked about the House Republicans’ border security bill that passed along party lines on Thursday.
She said there were elements of the bill that were problematic in terms of implementation. But Sinema viewed its passage as good news because it now provides the Senate with a vehicle to shape a final package that will address her priorities, including the end of Title 42, the lack of border security, the broken asylum system, and the visa issues that workers face.
“So I'm less concerned about the elements of the House Republican bill and more concerned that they get a bill over to us because that's how we can work together,” she added.
Rep. Nanette Barragán of California, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told Supercreator that she’s skeptical the House bill will be the impetus for good-faith conversations on immigration reform.
“The problem at the border with so many people that are waiting to come over is because we shut the border down, and basically stop honoring our asylum system allowing people to come to ports of entry to get processed to be heard,” she said. “So to just say, ‘No, you’re going to sit there and wait for another two years’ is not going to help the situation. It’s only going to create more people who are desperately waiting for their opportunity to apply for asylum, which is legal.”
Barragán added that there were already conversations taking place about incremental steps lawmakers can take toward comprehensive immigration reform before House Republicans passed their bill.
“Because we know that there is a need and we know the American people want Congress to come together to provide legal pathways.”
Sinema’s main critique of the administration’s response to the end of Title 42 is that it’s aspirational, not operational.
“The administration chose not to prepare adequately for it. The administration could extend the time of Title 42 on its own and actually do the preparation to prepare for an orderly end to Title 42,” she said. “We have communicated with the White House over and over and over again about these concerns. And we have a difference of opinion on what this crisis looks like on the ground.”
A spokesperson for the White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto sees it differently though.
We’ve seen President Biden step up to help address these challenges. He secured more protection border patrol in the [comprehensive government funding package]. He put together a parole program to work with countries that we’re seeing a lot of immigration from, like Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and he sent 1,500 troops to the border,” he told reporters ahead of the vote on the House GOP border security bill. In this moment of need, do Republicans step up in a bipartisan fashion to present a serious set of solutions to help the President? Of course not.”
The Sinema-Tillis bill would extend the authorities of Title 42 for two years without a connection to a public health crisis, which is what enabled former President Donald Trump and President Biden to green-light it.
But the senators don’t have the votes in either chamber to pass it, which neutralizes some of the sting in her knocks on the administration.
“The four-point framework that we published in December is still the framework that we are working on. What we've done over these last four months is to build a coalition of House and Senate members to help expose more members of both chambers to the actual reality so they can see the difference in what’s happening in El Paso [Texas] versus in Yuma [Arizona]. So they can see what's happening in Cochise County versus Pima County. So they see the complexity of the border and understand the need for us to make this change,” she said. “It would be really, frankly foolish to try and move legislation before you build out that bipartisan coalition and bicameral coalition. So we’re continuing to do that. The reason we’re here today talking about the end of Title 42 is because it ends at 9 p.m. Arizona time tonight and my state’s in crisis.
→ See also:“Biden’s asylum app is basically unusable” by Jennifer Dikler, Dylan Farrell-Bryan, Rosalyn Dietrich Leban, Gabriela Torres-Lorenzotti for Slate
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WH Big Four follow-up meeting postponed as debt limit cliff looms
The follow-up meeting today between President Biden and the top four congressional leaders was postponed on Thursday afternoon.
White House officials and staff for the leaders — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell — have been underway since the principals met with the president on Tuesday afternoon as both search for common ground to raise the debt limit before a first-ever US default and reset the nation’s spending priorities.
McCarthy told reporters that he hasn’t seen “seriousness from the White House during the discussions.
“It seems like they want a default,” he said.
Nicholas Wu at Politico reported that Jeffries called the decision a collective one led by the White House to allow the staff conversations to continue. McCarthy said the decision was made among the leaders without influence from the White House.
Jeffries told Supercreator on Thursday morning that President Biden set the leaders on a path toward resolving the issue and that he expected the meeting would be a “continuation of that path”
“I expect that it will go well,” he added prior to the meeting being pushed back.
The House and Senate are in session one more week before the US is expected to run out of cash to pay its bills — to say it’s crunch time would be a massive understatement.
Next week is the final week the House and Senate will both be in session before the deadline unless leadership cancels their Memorial Day weekend recesses.
→ See also: “Survivors of the 2011 bebt limit showdown say this time is worse” by Grace Segars at TNR
Jeffries on Neely: “He should still be alive today”
Daniel Penny, the former Marine who killed 30-year-old unhoused New Yorker Jordan Neely in a chokehold on the subway last week will be arrested and charged with second-degree manslaughter, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office confirmed on Thursday.
“We cannot provide any additional information until he has been arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court, which we expect to take place [today], the office said in a statement.
Hakeem Jeffries told reporters the killing was a tragic situation and the video documenting the incident was disturbing.
“Jordan Neely, in my view, should be alive today,” he said. “And it is my expectation that the Manhattan district attorney will have a full and fair comprehensive investigation, follow facts, apply the law and then present that information to a grand jury and to the people in the state of New York.”
A White House spokesperson said on Tuesday described the killing in similar terms.
“Our hearts go out to his family and loved ones,” a White House spokesperson said in a statement. “We firmly believe that the events surrounding his death demand a thorough investigation.”
→ See also: “In speech nine days late, NYC mayor refuses to say Jordan Neely was killed by Tori Otten at TNR … “The invisibility I feared” by Kaitlin Byrd at The Cut
Freshman Dem to House GOP: Santos is the real “welfare queen”
Following the passage of the House Republicans’ border security bill, members voted 425-400 to approve a bill that would help recover dollars lost to unemployment fraud during the pandemic and improve the integrity of the government’s insurance programs to prevent future fraud.
The timing of the vote couldn’t be richer for first-term Democratic Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove of California given George Santos, another first-term member from New York, was indicted this week for allegedly drawing unemployment benefits for a year during the pandemic despite holding a six-figure job at an investment firm.
“I talked about how disgusting it is,” Kamlager-Dove said in an exclusive interview with Supercreator outside the House chamber. “And this whole notion around fraud is an old trope that Republicans use to demonize Black and poor women insinuating that we game the system when Republicans have their own welfare queen to deal with.”
Santos voted in favor of the bill.
“Welfare queen” is a 1970s-era trope, that as Leah Wright Riguer wrote in The Atlantic last year, characterizes Black mothers as “harmful degenerates and a drain on the nation — a group to be controlled and disciplined.”
“So it’s really important to call people on their bullshit, on the madness,” she said. “We are in trouble because Republicans have been held hostage by hate and the idea that demonizing everyone is going to save them. Saving them is going to happen if they work with everyone else.”
Kamlager-Dove voted against the bill because she said it essentially criminalizes Americans who were accidentally overpaid for unemployment insurance benefits.
→ See also: “George Santos can’t even do corruption right” by Matt Ford at TNR
Ag leaders commit to farm bill bipartisanship after WH meeting
President Biden met on Thursday afternoon with the top Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to discuss the upcoming farm bill, which governs US agriculture and food policy along with the annual appropriations bills that fund the government.
The leaders said in a joint statement the conversation focused on the importance of passing a bipartisan farm bill this year.
“The farm bill is a jobs bill. It is a safety net for farmers and consumers, and it is an investment in our rural communities and the health of the American people,” House Ag Chairman GT Thompson of Pennsylvania and Ranking Member David Scott of Georgia, and Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Ranking Member John Boozman of Arkansas. “The Agriculture Committees have a long tradition of bipartisan cooperation, and we look forward to continuing that tradition through our work on the 2023 farm bill.”
ICYMI, Supercreator previewed the meeting in Thursday’s newsletter.
In addition to the chairs and ranking members, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Bruce Reed, and White House Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell also attended the meeting. Terrell was spotted at the Capitol after meeting with congressional leadership staff about the debt limit and federal budget.
Supercreator is a reader-supported publication. To receive exclusive posts and support the reporting that this newsletter requires, consider becoming a paid subscriber.
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before holding a bilateral meeting with President Pedro Sanchez of Spain in the afternoon at the White House.
Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Atlanta to speak at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser and at the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Spring Soiree. She will return to DC tonight.
The House and Senate are out.
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