Sen. Capito sounds off on Afghanistan, Haitian migrant crisis, new voting rights bill

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Sep. 24—MORGANTOWN — Sen. Shelley Moore Capito shared her thoughts with West Virginia press Thursday on the ongoing chaos in Afghanistan, the southern border crisis and the new Freedom to Vote Act.

"It was a rushed and hurried exit, " she said of Afghanistan. "Quite frankly, I think it was humiliating for the United States for the world to see."

News reports indicate the State Department has been unable or unwilling to pin down how many American citizens, green card holders and others who help America are still waiting to get out.

There was no plan, Capito said. "I want answers." Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be coming before the Senate next week to face such questions as why there was no plan, what advice President Biden received and accept, why they suddenly abandoned Bagram Air Force Base, what will happen to the equipment.

And going forward, she said, "How are we going to keep our intelligence and ears to the ground without some kind of presence ?" She's also concerned about the Taliban's treatment of women. "This is a brutal and very, very violent group."

Capito serves as ranking member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, which appropriates money for the U.S. Border Patrol. She said she recently spoke with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz about the border crisis, and in particular the 15, 000 Haitian migrants sheltering under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

Again, she said, her questions for Biden are, "What is your plan, why is [this ] your plan ? You have no border security, Mr. President."

In addition to the Haitians, she said, 208, 000 other illegal immigrants were apprehended in August. Haitian families are being assimilated into U.S. localities while they await adjudication of their cases. "This is no way to keep our borders safe."

According to news reports, some Haitians have been deported but others are being released into the U.S. "on a "very, very large scale, " the Associated Press said. Those migrants get notice to appear at a future court proceeding or a notice to report.

This year, news reports said, about 600, 000 migrants have been released with notices to appear or report, and hundreds of thousands of others have escaped into the country without processing.

Reuters said the White House plans increased deportation efforts. Flights began Sunday and more than 500 migrants have been removed. Single adult males are the priority for expulsion. Many family units are being admitted.

Fed spending The conjoined infrastructure bills — the $1 trillion traditional infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social infrastructure bill — are being debated, with a House vote on the smaller bill tentatively set for Monday. Sen. Joe Manchin continues to play a pivotal role with his opposition to the price tag of the bigger bill.

Tied to those measures are a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded through Dec. 3 and a linked proposal to again lift the debt ceiling as the U.S. Treasury approaches its borrowing limit.

Capito said the Democrats need to engage in some negotiation. "We cannot spend all of this money and then you ask us to help you raise the debt ceiling so you can spend this money."

Negotiations, she said, would convey to the majority Democrats the GOP desire to rein in some of the spending and then discuss raising the limit. For regular folks, she said, "When you don't have room on your credit card or you don't have any money in the bank, your decision-making is limited."

Whatever happens, she said, "I honestly don't think we will shut down the government." The debt ceiling has to be lifted by Nov. 1, so there's time, and the continuing resolution needs to be handled first.

Freedom to Vote Act Manchin is a co-sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act, a scaled-down version of the For the People Act that both he and Capito opposed. (For the People is 886 pages, Freedom to Vote is 594.) Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is lead sponsor.

Klobuchar said in a release about the bill, "The legislation reflects feedback from state and local election officials the Rules Committee has heard throughout the year to ensure the people responsible for implementing reforms are able to do so effectively."

Manchin said in the release, "The right to vote is fundamental to our Democracy and the Freedom to Vote Act is a step in the right direction towards protecting that right for every American. As elected officials, we also have an obligation to restore peoples' faith in our Democracy, and I believe that the commonsense provisions in this bill — like flexible voter ID requirements — will do just that."

West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner sent a letter to Manchin on Sept. 15 opposing the bill and a resolution signed by 54 of the 55 county clerks opposing it. Among the eight points they site are problems in the bill with same-day voter registration, uniform national voter ID laws, early voting dates, drop boxes and mandates for counting provisional ballots that allow people to vote for candidates that won't represent them.

Despite the trimming, Capito said she also opposes it as a federal takeover of something the states already do well. "It doesn't let us as West Virginians be able to create a voting system such as we had in 2020, " when we had the second-largest turnout in state history.

Same-day registration, she said, is problematic because of the state's spotty broadband. It prevents states tailoring voter ID to their own needs. It publicly finances elections so your money may go to candidates you oppose.

She wants more people to vote in larger numbers. "I think our states are best equipped to handle this."

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