The White House has a mess on its hands with Title 42, the Trump-era public health provision used to turn away migrants during the pandemic to slow the spread of COVID-19. They want Congress to clean it up.
"This would be Congress having the discussion. We are continuing to prepare for a May 23 implementation" of lifting the order, President Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday at a White House briefing. "There will be a range of conversations about this over the coming days."
When it comes to lifting the Title 42 rule and potentially triggering yet another surge at the border, the administration's line is simple: this is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's decision; they follow the science; CDC wants to lift this restriction.
But Democrats are split over this decision. Democratic members of Congress are up for re-election this year, not Biden. Among the reasons they are likely to lose their majorities is Biden's persistent mismanagement of the border crisis — the president is 22 points underwater on immigration, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.
On the flip side, liberals who want the rule lifted are upset that Biden hasn't used enough executive power on immigration. That has resulted in key Biden allies like House Minority Whip James Clyburn, who helped the president win the Democratic nomination in 2020, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly unhappy with how the White House has dealt with Title 42.
Punting the issue to Congress adds insult to injury. But there's a silver lining for Democrats. Biden and the at-risk Democratic lawmakers may have been saved by the courts: A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked Biden from lifting Title 42 in the latest rebuke to the administration's executive actions on the pandemic. This time, the longer it is delayed, the better off the Democrats will be.
Unless, of course, Title 42 is lifted right before the voters head to the polls. That won't be a pretty scene for Democrats in Congress, who find themselves quoting Oliver Hardy to Biden: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"