Senate Democrats (and Vice President Kamala Harris, with her tie-breaking vote) this past weekend passed “substantive” climate and health care wins as part of a bill that invests billions in clean energy and makes prescription drugs more affordable for senior citizens.
Democratic lawmakers also passed the Inflation Reduction Act without further punishing and demonizing asylum-seekers, as Senate Republicans had sought to do. Among the GOP-led amendments rejected during the weekend was a proposal from James Lankford that would have continued Stephen Miller’s anti-asylum Title 42 order indefinitely. Senate Democrats remained united, defeating it 50-50.
RELATED STORY: Reject anti-immigrant amendments and deliver on Inflation Reduction Act, more than 300 groups urge
“While far from perfect, this bill promises to take major steps towards bolstering the health of our communities and ensuring that future generations will have a more sustainable world to live in,” responded Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). “Importantly, the Senate sent a clear message that hate and xenophobia have no place in our society by voting down every anti-immigrant amendment, including amendments that would have codified the Trump administration’s Title 42 asylum ban.”
NILC and America’s Voice, another pro-immigrant advocacy group, were among the voices singling out for praise Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Sen. Alex Padilla of California. Both had been warning that anti-immigrant amendments risked derailing the entire package.
“In order to maintain the integrity of this historic legislation, I will not only vote no on any immigration amendment introduced, but I will vote no on the final bill if any harmful immigration amendments are adopted,” Menendez had said. “We cannot allow Republicans to divide us and align the Democratic Party with extremist policies that would jeopardize us from delivering historic investments for the American people.”
“Democrats must stay united in preserving the bill, and passing this historic and transformational legislation for the American people,” Padilla urged during an Aug. 5 press call with advocates. Hundreds of organizations, including some on the press call with Padilla, had already been calling on lawmakers to reject any anti-immigrant amendments “that target immigrant communities to distract Americans, score political points, and derail the passage of this critical legislation.”
Roll Call reported that a second vote related to Title 42 came up during the “vote-a-rama” early Sunday that did get support from a number of Democrats, but ultimately failed to receive the 60 votes needed in this instance to proceed.
“Immediately after that vote, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., offered an alternative amendment that would extend Title 42 until 60 days after the public health emergency ends with requirements for the administration to submit a plan to Congress to address a potential influx of migrants,” the report said. “The Tester amendment contained no funding so was subject to a budget point of order, which six Democrats joined all Republicans in voting to waive.”
The five to join Tester were Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan, Raphael Warnock, Mark Kelly , and Kyrsten Sinema. Four of these lawmakers—Tester, Hassan, Sinema, and Kelly—had previously supported efforts continuing Title 42. Warnock had not indicated his support for that specific effort at that time, but had expressed belief that Title 42 should not end in May, as the Biden administration had unsuccessfully sought. Cortez Masto, Hassan, Kelly, and Warnock are all up for reelection this November.
“Our community was very worried about the possibility of anti-immigrant amendments being added to this legislation,” said Yareliz Mendez-Zamora, federal campaign lead for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, in a statement received by Daily Kos. “Thankfully, we can rejoice at the fact that the Inflation Reduction Act passed free from harmful amendments.”
“We are relieved that lawmakers saw this opportunity for what it truly was; a bill that will benefit us all by lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, lowering energy costs and making health care affordable,” Mendez-Zamora continued. “This is a historic, breakthrough bill that would help millions of Florida families, native-born and immigrant alike and we are glad it passed the Senate. Now we urge the House to do the same!”
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