Politics

Rick Scott tries and fails to overhaul TPS in exchange for granting it to Venezuelans

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., gestures as he speaks to members of the media at the National Hurricane Center on Monday, September 2, 2019 in Miami. Sen. Rick Scott gives update on Hurricane Dorian.
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., gestures as he speaks to members of the media at the National Hurricane Center on Monday, September 2, 2019 in Miami. Sen. Rick Scott gives update on Hurricane Dorian. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott tried and failed on Wednesday to pass a conservative overhaul of the Temporary Protected Status system in exchange for extending TPS to Venezuelans who’ve been waiting for months for the ability to legally live and work in the United States.

On the Senate floor, Scott tried to pass an amendment to a Venezuela TPS bill sponsored by Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart that passed the House of Representatives in July.

In exchange for granting TPS to Venezuelans immediately, Scott wanted to implement congressional reviews for TPS designated countries every two years. He argued recent court decisions that overturned President Donald Trump’s plan to end TPS in countries like Haiti and El Salvador essentially make TPS a permanent program.

“We have to act, but we also need to be responsible,” Scott said on the Senate floor. “The courts have basically made a temporary program permanent, which is not sustainable. The amendment grants TPS to Venezuelans for 18 months. It requires congressional approval for TPS extensions for no more than 18 months at a time.”

Scott’s amendment would also require congressional review every two years for countries that currently have TPS. He said Florida Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio and Diaz-Balart, along with the White House, support his plan, which would overhaul the TPS program to make it more palatable for conservatives.

But Scott tried to fast-track his amendment through a process called unanimous consent, which is usually used for uncontroversial legislation. Democratic New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez objected to Scott’s amendment on the Senate floor, so it failed.

“At the end of the day it doesn’t take undermining TPS, dramatically changing TPS to give Venezuelans Temporary Protected Status,” Menendez said, arguing that a standalone TPS bill would pass the U.S. Senate right now and head to Trump’s desk for his signature.

Trump himself also has the power to grant TPS without congressional approval and has chosen not to do so despite recognizing Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate leader in January.

“Rather than providing TPS for vulnerable people in the United States, the junior senator from Florida has brought up an amendment that seeks to overhaul existing TPS statute and make it easier for the Trump administration to strip status from vulnerable migrants that are legally in the United States,” Menendez said.

“It’s unfortunate that the senator form Florida would prefer to pass legislation that advances the administration’s immigration agenda rather than help the Venezuelan people, something we all agree about.”

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