The Biden administration planned to end Title 42 this week after a federal judge had ordered that the policy be halted, but the Supreme Court has issued a brief stay keeping the measure in place while it considers the matter.
The rule refers to the Public Health Service Act, a statute last used in 1929 to prevent ships from entering the United States during an outbreak of meningitis. But in 2020, as the coronavirus began to spread across the country, the Trump administration seized on the authority to seal the border to asylum seekers.
The rule has also occasionally been criticized by homeland security officials as not effectively driving down border crossings. While it empowers agents to quickly turn away migrants at the border, it also provides an opportunity for people to cross illegally again since they are not detained for a prolonged period in the United States.
As talks continued into Wednesday night, some Republicans appeared to dig in over their desire for a vote on the amendment. Mr. Lee is also among those who have objected to passing a sprawling spending package and have called for a stopgap bill that will punt negotiations to a Republican-controlled House next month.
“I support the omnibus bill — even though the process is broken and it is bigger than it should be — because it meets our national security needs,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said on Twitter. “However, if the omnibus — which dramatically increases military spending and funds the government — fails because Democrats care more about letting Title 42 lapse than funding the federal government, so be it.”
As an alternative, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, a former Democrat who is newly registered as an independentannounced a separate amendment that her office said would extend Title 42 until a plan was in place to handle a surge of illegal border crossings and pour billions of dollars toward security officials, immigration judges and processing centers, among other security initiatives.
That amendment is likely to be set at a 60-vote threshold, giving it an uphill battle to pass in the evenly divided Senate. But it would also give centrist Democrats a chance to vote to maintain the Title 42 plan without allowing the Lee amendment to pass.