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BY JOHN BRESNAHAN, ANNA PALMER, JAKE SHERMAN AND HEATHER CAYGLE
WITH MAX COHEN AND CHRISTIAN HALL
Happy Wednesday morning.
We reported in our PM edition last night that Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn’t happy with the Biden administration’s handling of Title 42, the pandemic era policy that limited immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border.
As premium subscribers learned, House Democratic leaders worry that if reinstating Title 42 came up for a vote as part of a Ukraine aid package, Democrats wouldn’t have the votes to defeat it. Several top House Democrats vented about the administration’s handling of Title 42 during last night’s closed-door leadership meeting.
This, of course, would be a huge embarrassment for the Biden administration. The CDC has decision-making authority on invoking Title 42, but the White House pays the political price for this situation.
With a growing number of House and Senate Democrats breaking with the White House – and pressure from the Hill growing over an expected migrant surge at the border when Title 42 is lifted on May 23 – Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is formally unveiling a new plan for dealing with the southwest border.
“Title 42 was not working. We need a better plan. And I think that’s what the secretary will be presenting tomorrow,” Pelosi told us during a brief interview last night.
The full memo outlining Mayorkas’ new plan is here. You should read it. Mayorkas is testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee today and the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra will be in front of House Energy and Commerce today as well, and expect him to have to answer lots of questions on this topic too.
If moderate Democrats were hoping for a dramatic solution to the migrant crisis – or a reversal of the Title 42 decision – they’re going to be disappointed. Mayokas’ proposal includes none of that. Mayorkas even admits that the Biden administration can do little to stem the current migrant crisis unless Congress acts. That’s not going to happen at this point barring some dramatic reversal.
Republicans will also note that Mayorkas’ plan doesn’t include completion of President Donald Trump’s border wall, or call for a big new expenditure to deal with an anticipated migrant surge once the use of Title 42 ends.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, during the past three weeks, the agency has “encountered an average of 7,800 migrants per day across the Southwest Border. This compares to a historical average of 1,600 per day in the pre-pandemic years (2014-2019),” a roughly 480% increase.
Here are the highlights of Mayorkas’ “six pillar” plan:
→ The Biden administration is “surging resources, including personnel, transportation, medical support, and facilities to support border operations,” the memo states. “By May 23, we will be prepared to hold approximately 18,000 noncitizens in CBP custody at any given time, up from 13,000 at the beginning of 2021, and we have doubled our ability to transport noncitizens on a daily basis, with flexibility to increase further.”
→ DHS and other federal agencies will “continue to strictly enforce our immigration laws” using Title 8 and other existing authorities.
→ CPB will speed up its ability to process migrants, either for release inside the United States to await adjudication of their asylum claims, further detention, or eventual expulsion.
→ DHS is “bolstering the capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to receive noncitizens after they have been processed by CBP and are awaiting the results of their immigration removal proceedings.”
→ DHS is “targeting and disrupting the transnational criminal organizations and smugglers” who try to bring migrants – and drugs – into the country illegally.
→ The Biden administration says it is working with other Western Hemisphere nations to deter illegal immigration.
Here’s Mayorkas’ somewhat stunning conclusion:
Our outdated immigration system was not built to manage the current levels and types of migratory flows that we are experiencing and is already under strain. This is true at the federal level, as well as for state, local, and NGO partners. However, we have been able to manage increased encounters because of prudent planning and execution, and the talent and unwavering dedication of the DHS workforce and our state, local, and community partners.
Despite these efforts, a significant increase in migrant encounters will substantially strain our system even further. We will address this challenge successfully, but it will take time, and we need the partnership of Congress, state and local officials, NGOs, and communities to do so. We are operating within a fundamentally broken immigration system that only Congress can fix.
Let’s be clear here: Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are complaining that it was wrong for the CDC to lift Title 42 authority until there was a new border security plan in place. Now that Mayorkas has done that, we’ll have to see what the reaction on the Hill is. Our guess is that this proposal won’t stop Republicans from demanding – and getting – a Title 42 vote on a Ukraine aid package. And the question then becomes whether this DHS plan is enough to sway Democrats to vote to uphold the administration’s position.
Part of Pelosi’s concern about the way the White House has handled the Title 42 controversy is that she believes this debate has put politically vulnerable Democrats at risk. Based on our understanding of the vulnerable Democrats’ concern after dozens of conversations over the last few weeks, this DHS memo may not hit the spot.
“It endangers the whole Congress. It just doesn’t endanger the Frontliners,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told us about the administration’s current Title 42 policy. “It’s a big problem.”
Happening soon! We’re interviewing Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) this morning at 9 a.m. ET on equitable access to credit and his plans for the Financial Services Committee next Congress. RSVP to join!
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PAIN AT THE PUMP
News: Pelosi and Schumer huddled Tuesday on gas price package
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer huddled Tuesday to discuss putting together a package to try to get gas prices under control, according to sources familiar with the meeting.
Pelosi also spoke with White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain about the issue during a phone call Tuesday.
Schumer and Pelosi’s main focus at the moment is to craft a bill to give the Federal Trade Commission more authority to police price gouging by oil companies.
Top Democrats would love to get a bill through Congress by Memorial Day. But several Democrats privately admitted that timeline seems out of reach. Congress is also aiming to pass Covid preparedness funding, a Ukraine aid package and begin the process of passing a massive technology innovation bill in the next few weeks. Finding something on gas prices that can get the support of 60 senators will be exceedingly difficult as well. Republicans generally believe there should be more oil exploration and production.
House and Senate Democrats have a bevy of ideas when it comes to lowering gas prices. Lawmakers have suggested everything from a gas tax holiday to sending Americans checks to offset the rising cost of gas. Pelosi has been cool to a gas tax holiday and direct payments could never get the support of 60 senators.
THE JAN. 6 PROBE
Thompson says Jan. 6 hearings will be in June
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chair of the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, says the panel will hold public hearings in June. Thompson also said the panel will issue one final report in the fall, instead of releasing an interim report followed by a final wrap-up.
The updates to the panel’s schedule comes as the public uproar over the insurrection has reached a new pitch following several recent media bombshells. The New York Times released an audiotape last week of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling other House Republicans that he’d advise former President Donald Trump to resign rather than face a possible Senate conviction in an impeachment trial following the attack on the Capitol. And CNN obtained thousands of text messages from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows showing House and Senate Republicans intimately involved in Trump’s effort to overturn the election, which the select committee has already determined constitute a potential criminal act.
McCarthy and other Republicans have tried to move past the controversy, arguing that the country cares about inflation, gas prices and Ukraine, not Jan. 6. Perhaps that’s a powerful political argument for the GOP, but it’s not going to derail Thompson and the select committee from pressing ahead either.
“We’re looking for June hearings,” Thompson told reporters on Tuesday. The panel held an internal retreat throughout the day to go over its current status. “We hope to complete the hearings in June.”
“We [are] still looking at probably early fall,” Thompson added when asked about when the select committee will issue its closely watched report. “It looks like progress is coming at a better pace than we anticipated. So in all probability, the goal is to produce one report now … Early fall.”
The Mississippi Democrat said panel members are still discussing inviting Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence to testify, although they haven’t done so up to this point.
“It comes up at virtually every meeting. We just haven’t decided the next step,” Thompson said of seeking testimony from Trump.
On McCarthy, Thompson noted the select committee had invited him – as well as Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.) – to testify, but all three Republicans said no. Thompson said the select committee would re-issue that invitation to McCarthy, and then will decide whether to subpoena him if the minority leader says no.
“We invited [McCarthy] to come earlier, before the latest revelation that was reported on tape,” Thompson said. “In all probability, he will be issued another invitation to come, just like some other members will be.”
→ Here’s a new ad from Josh Mandel, who is vying for the GOP nomination for Senate in Ohio. It’s called “Cultural” and it includes Mandel’s three children. The spot says boys are boys, girls are girls, Black Lives Matter is racist and the Bible is “a book of love, not hate.” “If you agree with me, please join me in saving America.” Of course, that’s a veiled reference to former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. Trump endorsed J.D. Vance in the race, not Mandel.
→ We reported yesterday morning about Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) raising money for Jennifer Strahan, the Republican primary challenger to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Well, MTG also has a Democratic challenger, Marcus Flowers. Flowers has raised a stunning $7 million this cycle and has $1.9 million in cash on hand. Flowers raised $2.4 million last quarter. Of course, long-shot candidates running against controversial lawmakers oftentimes raise big money. MTG has a solidly red district and this is shaping up to be a strong Republican year. Here’s Flowers’ second ad, airing in the Chattanooga, Tenn., market. It’s a bio spot about his background. At the end, Powers says he will fight for “everyone who has been left behind.” Powers says he’ll fight for expanding access to affordable health care and protect the right to vote if he gets to Washington.
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9 a.m.: House Democrats will meet in a closed session in the Capitol.
9:30 a.m.: President Joe Biden will get his daily intelligence briefing.
10:15 a.m.: House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries and Vice Chair Pete Aguilar will brief reporters after the meeting.
11 a.m.: Biden will speak at Madeleine Albright’s funeral at the National Cathedral.
Noon: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and other Senate Republicans will talk about Title 42.
2:00 pm: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer holds his weekly pen and pad.
4 p.m.: Biden and First Lady Jill Biden will host national and state teachers of the year.
5:45 p.m.: RSC Chairman Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Reps. Brian Babin (R-Texas) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise will talk about securing the southern border.
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→ “Before Washington’s ‘Nerd Prom,’ Lots of Risk-Benefit Calculation,” by Sheryl Gay Stolberg
→ “Ohio Senate Race Pits Trump and Son Against Big G.O.P. Group,” by Maggie Haberman
→ “As Diplomacy Hopes Dim, U.S. Marshals Allies to Furnish Long-Term Military Aid to Ukraine,” by John Ismay, Christopher F. Schuetze and Michael Levenson
→ “Fears mount inside White House that Manchin won’t agree to any deal,” by Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis
→ “Elon Musk Bets Twitter Users Will Like a More Freewheeling Platform,” by Deepa Seetharaman and Meghan Bobrowsky
→ “Harvard Pledges $100 Million to Redress Ties to Slavery,” by Camille Furst
→ “New Hampshire starts with lead for first place on Dems’ 2024 voting calendar,” by Elena Schneider and Lisa Kashinsky
→ “Warren tries to ‘light the fire of urgency’ for Democrats,” by Burgess Everett
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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.
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