Analysis | Why the immigration debate is only going to get more tense – The Washington Post
An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.
with research by Tobi Raji
An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.
🚨 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will be in Washington today for the first time since Russia invaded his country. He will meet with President Biden, hold a news conference and address a joint session of Congress. More details below.
Good morning, Early Birds. Today is the shortest day of the year. We doubt it will feel that way for lawmakers flying back to Washington to vote on a government funding bill. Tips: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for waking up with us.
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In today’s edition … How Zelensky’s trip came together … What We’re Watching: Trump’s taxes, the Jan. 6 committee’s final report and the omnibus … but first …
Congress is working to fund the government this week so lawmakers can head home for the holiday — but expect Washington to be consumed by immigration when lawmakers return in January. The two parties haven’t been further apart on the issue in decades.
Republicans have pledged to investigate the Biden administration’s record policing the southern border and to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas once they take control of the House. In a preview of showdowns to come, some conservatives urged Republican senators on Monday to block a spending bill in part because it doesn’t include “strong border security policies.”
Additionally, the Trump administration’s Title 42 pandemic policy — which has allowed the United States to turn away migrants seeking asylum for nearly three years on public health grounds — could be scrapped within days. Its end could spur a rush of migrants to the southern border, giving Republicans another reason to go after Biden.
Republicans have led the scathing critiques of the administration’s record, but some Democrats have been critical, too.
Bennet and other lawmakers have been working to get immigration legislation included in the huge government funding bill Congress is working to pass before Christmas, but those measures didn’t make it into the bill they unveiled early Tuesday morning.
He was one of eight senators who crafted an immigration bill in 2013 that passed the Senate but never got a vote in the Republican-controlled House. Former president Donald Trump’s hawkish views on immigration then helped tank the odds of passing such a bill, and they’ll be close to zero once Republicans regain control of the House.
“There’s a reason why John Boehner tells people that his biggest regret as speaker is not having put that bill on the House floor,” Bennet said. “Because since then, the issue has been politicized in ways that have made it incredibly difficult for us to make progress.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) to enhance border security and offer a path to legalization for “dreamers,” gave a blistering speech on the Senate floor Tuesday in which she criticized both parties.
“Washington has chosen to yet again retreat to partisan corners instead of doing the hard and necessary work of finding lasting solutions when it comes to the crisis at our border,” she said, adding that she plans to regroup on the issue in January.
Republican and Democratic negotiators fought over the level of border funding in the government spending bill that Congress is hustling to pass this week — and the positions taken by each side weren’t what you might expect.
Senate Republicans refused to give Biden the $4.9 billion he requested and only agreed to $2.7 billion, according to multiple people familiar with the negotiations who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks. That’s enough to handle the current 9,000 migrants reaching the border each day for the near future, they say. But it’s not enough if the policies and situation on the border don’t improve or worsen.
Republicans hope the strategy will help ensure that the policies they prefer are included in a deal if the Biden administration comes back for more money next year, and if not it will give them an issue to attack Biden.
“You need to get your act together to change your policies to secure the border,” one Republican said of the strategy.
The hardball tactics, which don’t comport with Republicans’ public demands for more border security funding, come as McConnell is dealing with members in his own conference and a faction of House Republicans who are angry that he negotiated a deal with Democrats and didn’t leave government funding until next year for House Republicans to address.
“Senate Republicans putting the ball in Kevin McCarthy’s hands is a fumble waiting to happen,” one Democratic aide said.
Title 42 was supposed to end no later than today. The Supreme Court intervened on Monday to keep it in place temporarily, though, while the justices consider a last-minute appeal from the Republican-led states fighting to keep it in place.
Still, the court could allow Title 42 — which has survived previous efforts to kill it — to expire in coming days. The Justice Department isn’t trying to save the policy but has asked the justices not to end the policy before Dec. 27 to give the government time to prepare.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups that sued to end Title 42 argue that it’s not defensible as a public health measure.
“If you close the border for so long and back people up, of course there’s going to be chaos for a little while,” said Lee Gelernt, the ACLU’s lead lawyer in the case. “Ultimately, the federal government has more than enough resources to put asylum officers there to deal with it.”
But immigration experts say it’s tough to know how many asylum seekers will head to the border if Title 42 is scrapped.
“All the best planning in the world can’t prepare for something that’s never happened before, right?” said Angela Kelley, a former Biden administration official who stepped down earlier this year as a senior counselor to Mayorkas. “We’re in uncharted territory.”
Zelensky’s brief trip to Washington today came together quickly.
Biden and Zelensky discussed the possibility of a visit during a phone call on Dec. 11, a senior administration official told reporters on Tuesday evening. The White House formally invited Zelensky on Dec. 14, and the trip wasn’t confirmed until Sunday. Zelensky will head back to Ukraine after only a few hours on the ground.
Biden will announce nearly $2 billion in new military aid for Ukraine today, including a Patriot missile battery, according to the official.
The visit also comes as a growing — if still small — group of Republicans have begun questioning the amount of U.S. aid provided to Ukraine. “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and others have suggested they will scrutinize Ukraine spending when they assume control of the House in January and have warned against sending ‘blank checks,’” our colleagues write.
The senior administration official pushed back on the idea the trip was meant to pressure Republicans skeptical of the United States’ role in the Ukraine war.
“This isn’t about sending a message to a particular political party,” the senior administration official said. “This is about sending a message to Putin and sending a message to the world that America will be there for Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
News: And as Washington focuses today on the state of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our colleagues Shane Harris, John Hudson, Missy Ryan and Michael Birnbaum have filed this scoop that is sure to be part of the day’s conversation:
Follow The Post’s live coverage of Zelensky’s trip here.
Trump tax fallout: After three years, House Democrats finally have their hands on six years of Trump’s taxes and voted to release them to the public.
The committee released an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation on Tuesday night, and the full returns are expected to be released by Friday, according to a committee aide.
Perhaps most explosive in the Democrats’ findings is that the IRS failed to conduct its self-imposed mandatory audits of presidential taxes for the first two years of his presidency.
We’ll be watching if Democrats call for investigations into Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner during the Trump administration.
Rettig came under fire from both Republicans and Democrats during his tenure for politicization at the IRS and leaks of some of the wealthiest tax returns. Before he became commissioner, he defended Trump’s decision not to release his taxes.
Today is the day: The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol is expected to release its long-awaited final report today. The full, eight-chapter report is the culmination of more than 1,000 interviews and a year-long review of emails, text messages, phone records and White House records. (Check out the committee’s introductory report while you wait.)
Government funding: The Senate is working to lock in an agreement to pass the government funding bill today before it heads to the House. The procedural vote Tuesday night was an indicator on how much support it would get. Twenty-five Republicans voted against it, plenty for the measure to pass but a sign of how deep the party’s opposition is to the bill that increases both defense and nondefense spending (but defense at a higher level).
Crypto fallout: Disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried is expected to be extradited to the United States today on multiple charges of conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and violating campaign finance laws. He will be arraigned at a federal court in New York.
Bankman-Fried’s legal team is discussing a deal with federal prosecutors that would allow him to be released on bail under restrictive conditions, including home confinement and electronic monitoring, per the New York Times.
From across the web:
Today’s first @washingtonpost TikTok features the omnibus https://t.co/vccqWnXtgt pic.twitter.com/4WfJKvMb97
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