The House passed its racist and xenophobic border security bill Thursday in a 219-213 vote after a great deal of backroom dealing between leadership and the Freedom Caucus hardliners—the kind of backroom dealing House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised wouldn’t happen on his watch. Promises, promises. This was the bill that Majority Leader Steve Scalise promised would happen in the first two weeks of this Congress. Months of intense infighting delayed its passage, and ensured that it would be so extreme that even Senate Republicans won’t touch it.
It’s not so extreme, however, that some in the Senate aren’t going to try to use it to kickstart a “bipartisan” bill. That would be Arizona’s newly-declared independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who will take any opportunity to undermine Democrats. She’s been grand-standing on the end of Title 42, the pandemic-related policy that’s been in place since March 2020, which expires Thursday with the official end of the government’s pandemic emergency. The policy allowed the U.S. to deny asylum and migration claims for public health reasons, and Sinema and Republican Thom Tillis of North Carolina have been shopping legislation that would extend Title 42 for two more years.
Sinema is attempting to keep this Trump-era policy, authored by white supremacist Stephen Miller, alive. It’s worth remembering this policy wasn’t about public health. The Centers for Disease Control were opposed to it, didn’t believe public health needs justified it, and were forced to implement it by the Trump White House. That’s what Sinema is pushing now, and it’s what a handful of Senate Democrats
are falling for.
Sinema is also trying to lead on a larger immigration bill, and she’s working with House and Senate Republicans to do it. The Washington Post reports that she’s taking "advantage of the moment” of the House bill to push her Republican-aligned efforts. She’s been working with Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales and nominal Democrat Henry Cuellar, both of Texas, on a bill, along with a host of other Republicans from the House.
Just to show how not bipartisan this effort is, Tillis—the Republican—is her partner on it as opposed to Democrats like Dick Durbin who have been working on the issue for decades. Tillis called the extremist House bill “a good first step.” He called it “a good foundation,” and added “That’s what I was hoping they’d send us.”
That “good foundation” includes billions more for building Donald Trump’s border wall and new severe restrictions on asylum seekers. Migrants could only apply for asylum if they could prove they had applied and been rejected by other countries, or if they could prove they were a victim of trafficking. It sets a higher bar for asylum claims, making it harder for people to prove persecution, and disallowing claims from people who opposed terrorist or gang activities as grounds for needing to flee their homelands. It imposes a $50 application fee. And it creates new criminal penalties for migrants who overstay their visas.
The White House has already issued a veto threat, saying it would “would cut off nearly all access to humanitarian protections in ways that are inconsistent with our Nation’s values and international obligations.” The bill “would make things worse, not better,” the White House said. “Because this bill does very little to actually increase border security while doing a great deal to trample on the Nation’s core values and international obligations, it should be rejected.”
That’s what Sinema’s legislative partner, Tillis, calls “a good foundation.” The people in the House who wrote that bill are who Sinema has decided to work with. She’s not going to be working with Democrats in any kind of good faith on this, because she has never acted in good faith. Look at what she was saying about the border back when she was a “progressive.”
How do you make a campaign ad that voters actually want to watch? We're discussing that critical question on this week's episode of "The Downballot" with leading Democratic ad-maker Mark Putnam, who's been responsible for some of the most memorable spots in recent years. Putnam details his creative process, which always starts with spending time with candidates to truly learn their story—and scouting locations in-depth. He then walks us through the production of the famous Jason Kander-assembles-a-gun-blindfolded ad that went viral and explains why, believe it or not, you always want footnotes in your attack ads.