When the Biden administration announced that the Trump-era public health measure, Title 42, would be scrapped as of May 23, battle lines were drawn. The rule, implemented with the CDC, permitted illegal immigrants to be denied entry to the US based on health concerns. It was widely seen as a “last line of defense” to opponents of open borders once Joe Biden became president and began dismantling other curbs to border crossings. But it seems those battle lines aren’t quite as stark as first imagined, and with the deadline for full elimination of the last remaining tool to deal with illegal crossings fast approaching, even some Democrats are beginning to rebel.
Principle or Politics?
A number of sitting Democratic senators have signed on to co-sponsor the Public Health and Border Security Act of 2022, which would force the CDC to delay ending Title 42. Among those Democrats seeking to bring the bill are Senators Joe Manchin (WV), Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly (AZ), Jon Tester (MT), and Maggie Hassan (NH). As well as the GOP co-signatories, other senators have also voiced opposition to ending the program.
But is this rebellion against Biden’s final blockade to ostensible open borders a position of principle or merely politics?
It is notable that a significant swath of potential candidates for the November midterms also are raising concerns. At least six likely Democrat Senate candidates spoke with Politico regarding their opposition to dropping the policy, each hoping to win in a swing state. The man charged with herding the senatorial hopefuls, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Gary Peters, avoided criticizing the policy outright, but made it clear that ending Title 42 could be an impediment, saying the candidates were “right to raise questions.”
Maybe those opposing the repeal of Title 42 have consulted their crystal balls and seen electoral defeat in their futures. Or perhaps they have taken the more traditional route and examined the substantial polling that indicates this decision is one of the least popular ever taken by the administration.
According to a Morning Consult/Politico survey conducted after Biden’s announcement, fully 56% of voters disapproved of the decision with only 34% approving. Unsurprisingly, 78% of Republican voters were opposed, but it is Independent and Democrat voters who should set electoral alarm bells ringing. Just 31% of the much-coveted Independents supported ending the measure versus 52% who were against it; 60% of Democrat voters approved of ending it.
Having 40% of your own party not on board with what may prove to be a pivotal electoral issue is dangerous territory for a president hoping – against the odds – to maintain control of the House and Senate. And those candidates seeking a seat of their very own may well see Biden as the most significant stumbling block.