Democrats are searching for alternative ways to include mass amnesty in their social spending legislation after the Senate parliamentarian advised Sunday that measures providing a pathway to citizenship for 8 million illegal immigrants could not be attached to their go-it-alone $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
“Last night's ruling was extremely disappointing. It saddened me, it frustrated me, it angered me, because so many lives are at stake,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a press conference on Monday. “Make no mistake, the fight continues. Senate Democrats have prepared alternative proposals. We'll be holding additional meetings with the parliamentarian in the coming days.”
Democrats are utilizing a budget reconciliation process for their large social spending proposal that allows them to bypass the need to gain support from at least 10 Senate Republicans due to filibuster rules. However, bills in that process are not allowed to concern measures “extraneous” to the budget.
Despite Democrats arguing that the proposals qualify as a budget change due to the economic impact of legalizing millions of workers, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough advised Sunday that the legal permanent status measures would “far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.”
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, one of the Democrats working to find an alternate way to include legal status in the bill, said that one possibility being considered is adjusting the “green card through registry” date — mostly recently set at Jan. 1, 1972, during the Reagan administration in 1986. NBC News reported that the date could be changed to 2010, allowing many illegal immigrants who can show they have been present in the United States since before 2010 a pathway to legal permanent residency.
Another option is giving illegal immigrants “recognized status,” which would not immediately create a path to citizenship but would give some relief.
On the more extreme end of proposals to get around the parliamentarian’s decision, some far-left Democrats advocate that Vice President Kamala Harris overrule the parliamentarian — an action not taken since 1975, when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller overruled the parliamentarian on a matter regarding filibuster rules. Or, they suggest that Senate leaders fire the parliamentarian, as former Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott did in 2001 after unfavorable decisions.
The last two scenarios are unlikely, though. Harris declined to overrule the parliamentarian earlier this year after MacDonough said Democrats could not include a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage in a COVID-19 relief reconciliation bill. And a line of succession in the Senate parliamentarian’s office means that Democrats can’t hand-pick her replacement.
“I don't believe that's realistic at this point,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters Monday when asked about overruling the parliamentarian. “I just don't think the votes are there."
Firing the parliamentarian would take a majority vote in the Senate, which would require every Senate Democrat to vote in favor of the firing.
Menendez told reporters on a press call Monday that calls to remove or replace MacDonough are not “constructive,” adding that “the parliamentarian under the Senate rules is the final word.”
Final language for the immigration reform had not been decided by the time the Senate parliamentarian articulated her decision on Sunday. But reconciliation bill language advanced by House Democrats last week would have given an estimated 8 million illegal immigrants who were essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic, Temporary Protected Status recipients, and illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children a chance at legal permanent resident status.
It is unclear how MacDonough would assess the possibility of changing the green card through registry date from 1972 to 2010, but it is possible she would decide that the date change would also present a “tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” as she wrote Sunday.
In addition to Menendez, Schumer, and Durbin, Democratic senators working on alternate immigration reform proposals include Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, and Alex Padilla of California.
“We're not going to take 'no' for an answer,” Menendez told reporters Monday.
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Original Author: Emily Brooks