Latino Senators Block Anti-Immigrant Amendment From Inflation Bill

Aug 9, 2022
4:41 PM

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-NJ, who vowed to vote against anti-immigrant provisions before last weekend’s 15-hour voting session that ended with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

WASHINGTON — Shortly after 2 a.m. on Sunday, an anti-immigrant amendment by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) was rejected by a 50-50 party-line vote.

Lankford’s amendment called for the use of Obamacare money to fund Title 42, the Trump-era policy by which immigrants are barred entry to or removed from the United States based on public health concerns. The amendment was the fourth of dozens of votes in what would become a 15-hour vote-o-rama that would eventually lead to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act the following afternoon.

“You know how Republicans are. They always find a way to…” Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) told Latino Rebels in Capitol tunnels just hours before the first vote, his voice trailing off as he walked away. “That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Lankford’s amendment was a “poison pill” in Congress-speak—a measure that, if adopted, would kill the entire legislative package.

Two Latino Democratic senators, Bob Menendez (NJ) and Alex Padilla (CA), begin signaling the week before the lengthy vote session that they would not vote for an anti-immigrant bill.

Advocates like Immigration Hub’s Kerri Talbot were weeks ahead of even the two senators. As soon as a deal was struck between Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) on the inflation bill, Talbot was sounding the alarm that a barrage of anti-immigrant poison pills would soon be coming from the GOP.

As negotiations around the bill intensified, advocates questioned why immigrant relief measures —like green card recapture proposals— weren’t being offered by Democrats. Hill aides for Senate Democrats tell Latino Rebels that there was no appetite for trading recapture for Title 42, or allowing Republicans to paint the legislation as “an amnesty bill” just before the midterm.

Menendez watched the Lankford poison pill vote from his front-row desk in the Senate chamber, loudly voting it down along with 49 other Democratic senators.

Then came a bit of procedural trickery on the following vote, whereby Sen. John Tester (D-MT) reintroduced Lankford’s amendment but without the Obamacare funds that Lankford hoped would make the amendment budgetary and thereby germane to a reconciliation bill. Without the budgetary impact, the Tester amendment required 60 votes instead of the simple majority that was required to pass Lankford’s amendment.

Tester’s move allowed six Senate Democrats to vote for the Title 42 amendment: Tester, Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Mark Kelly (AZ), Raphael Warnock (GA), Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), and Maggie Hassan (NH).

Tester’s messaging amendment fell four votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed to pass just before 3 a.m. Sunday, as Menendez and Padilla looked on sternly.

The Inflation Reduction Act was passed by a party-line vote just over 12 hours later with Vice President Kamala Harris presiding and casting the tie-breaker.

The bill now goes to the House where Democrats are expected to vote on it Friday.


Pablo Manríquez is the Capitol Hill correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports