Can Democrats Eliminate Immigration Through Reconciliation? Senate aides try to enforce rules
WASHINGTON — Republican allies challenged their Democratic counterparts Friday in a debate before the Senate’s top rule enforcer that could determine whether eight million undocumented immigrants have a path to citizenship.
The debate, which took place behind closed doors, took place as House committees were drafting and moving forward key components of a comprehensive $3.5 trillion spending plan Democrats are pushing that would expand the social safety net and Will test the limits of Senate rules.
Democrats have sought to include a long-sought overhaul of immigration law in the ambitious economic package, prompting objections from Republicans, who say the proposals are not really budgetary in nature.
The aides — senior Democrats and Republicans with expertise in immigration law and budgeting — met with Senate MP Elizabeth McDonough, who serves as the chamber’s arbiter of its own rules. It was not clear how soon Ms McDonough would deliver the verdict after the debate.
Democrats are trying to push legislation through a fast-track process known as conciliation, where 50 Senate Democrats can pass budget legislation by a simple majority, avoiding a filibuster. But to make use of this process, policy measures would have to pass what became known as the Bird Rule—named after Senator Robert C. Bird – which states that any provision must have a direct impact on the budget and be more than “contingent only”. “
Ms McDonough, a nonpartisan career official, has previously criticized Democrats: In February, she held off on including a $15-per-hour minimum wage in a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, something progressives said. who had complained about his outside influence. Her decisions are advisory only, but several Democratic senators have indicated they would be reluctant to eliminate her.
Democrats are pushing for legal status to people brought to the United States as children, known as Dreamers; immigrants who were granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons; About one million farmers; And millions more whom Democrats consider “essential workers.”
According to preliminary data from the Congressional Budget Office, the budgetary cost of changes to immigration law — which affect health care benefits, Medicaid spending and tax credits — exceed $139 billion over 10 years. In addition, Democrats estimate that the legalization push will add $1.5 trillion to the US economy over the next decade, creating more than 400,000 jobs.
Republicans, however, are opposing the proposals, arguing they are tangent to the budget and that Congress should focus on securing the southern border before trying to scrap the immigration law.
Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said in a recent interview that he pushed for an immigration overhaul to be included in the budget package after held talks with a bipartisan group of only 15 senators.
“Well, I tried,” said Mr. Durbin of his earlier attempt. “We had six or eight bipartisan meetings. I have never been able to attend 10 Republican senators and most of them will not show up consistently. There was not enough interest in his side of the aisle on the subject. “
Time is running out for the Dreamers, Mr Durbin says, that a Supreme Court ruling against them could put the lives of hundreds of thousands of immigrants at risk.
“If we do not move forward, there is a very real possibility that these people will be subject to deportation,” he said.
Kevin Kayes, a former assistant Senate lawmaker who is advising pro-immigration group FWD.us, said there was a stronger case for incorporating immigration changes into the reconciliation process than raising the minimum wage.
“The minimum wage,” he said, “is the mandate of the private sector. With immigration, we’re talking about a basic government job.”
Immigration advocates have devised some backup plans in case lawmakers don’t rule in their favor, including updating the immigration registry.
Emily Cochran Contributed to reporting.
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