The first test of Democrats’ hopes of passing an amnesty for illegal immigrants lies in the Senate, where a little-known official will decide whether he can circumvent long-standing obstruction rules and attach his plan to the $ 3.5 trillion budget package.
Main helpers of Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, has privately presented arguments to Elizabeth macdonough, the House MP, on why legalizing illegal immigrants is a valid exercise in what is known in Washington as “budget reconciliation.”
The process allows for measures that address spending, income, and the federal debt limit to avoid the Senatefiltering threshold of 60 votes and passing by a simple majority.
Senate Democrats argue that legalizing 8 million migrants would automatically make them eligible for federal benefits, which would profoundly affect the federal budget. That is one of the key tests for footwear policies in the reconciliation process.
“A path to citizenship is compatible with reconciliation,” said a senior Democratic aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the behind-the-scenes maneuvers. “Adding people, many of whom already pay taxes, to the federal rolls will have an immediate and direct impact on the budget.”
An immigration attorney by training, Ms. MacDonough has served as the Senateparliamentarian since 2012. As a member of parliament, she is tasked with interpreting whether legislative actions are permissible under the Senatelong-standing rules and precedents.
When it comes to reconciliation, the MP has significant influence due to the complicated and vague provisions that govern the practice, known as the Byrd Rule. Named after the former Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the rule prohibits “foreign matters” from being included in the reconciliation. That rules out changes to Social Security, policies where the effects on income or expenses are only incidental, and anything that increases the deficit beyond the budget window.
Millisecond. MacDonough used the criteria earlier this year to prevent Democrats from including an increase in the federal minimum wage within the reconciliation.
Senate Democrats are pushing for a different outcome on immigration and say there is a precedent.
A parliamentarian in 2005 allowed Republicans to include an immigration provision in that year’s reconciliation package. Although that measure only addressed unused green card fees, Democrats are eager to invoke the precedent.
“Obviously, we are going to have to meet the reconciliation standards,” said the Democratic aide. “But this is how procedural battles are won: You find small openings in the rules and push to expand them to achieve your goals.”
Senate Democrats have yet to reveal their immigration proposal, but House Democrats have revealed theirs. It envisions a path to citizenship for approximately 8 million illegal immigrants who have DACA or temporary protected status or who are considered to have “essential” jobs in the economy.
That proposal was debated Monday in the House Judiciary Committee. Republicans offered amendments to ban amnesty for illegal immigrants who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine or those who have misdemeanors with firearms. Each attempt was rejected by the Democrats on the panel.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, proposed banning illegal immigrants with a single drunk driving conviction. That was defeated, so he proposed to exclude those with two DUIs. That too was defeated.
He came back with an amendment banning those with 10 DUI convictions. That was also rejected by Democrats, who said the bill already barred anyone with three misdemeanors or one major felony.
Immigrant rights advocates say Democrats must deliver this year after decades of promises.
“We have advocated for extensive permanent residency over and over again, decade after decade. We have demonstrated our loyalty, our courage and our commitment to this country, ”said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for the Human Rights of Immigrants. “After 35 years of obstruction, the other party no longer has credible excuses to keep us without legalization.”
Experts on the left and right say the final determination as to whether the amnesty can be used in reconciliation is whether illegal immigrants represent a “net benefit or a net loss” from the federal budget.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office of a 2007 legalization proposal found that it would increase the deficit by “several billion dollars a year.”
A recent report published by the Center for Immigration Studies indicates that adding 8 million immigrants to the federal rolls would cost Social Security and Medicare more than $ 1 trillion, which could violate the rule not to increase the deficit beyond the budget window.
“It appears that these long-term costs could affect whether the reconciliation bill meets the requirement of not increasing deficits after 10 years,” wrote Jason Richwine, a resident scholar at the center.
Democrats are willing to take the risk. They say comprehensive immigration reform is implausible in the uniform division Senate.
“We prefer a bipartisan agreement, even if it is not all that we would like to see,” said Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat of New Jersey. “But in the absence of doing that, those of us who believe in immigration reform feel that we have to at least pursue this option and see if it is viable.”
Republicans say Democrats have refused to budge.
“Just because Senate Democrats refuse to work with Republicans on a bipartisan bill, [the] The fate of citizenship for ‘Dreamers’ currently depends on the Senate Parliamentarian, ”said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas.
Even if the Democrats beat Ms. MacDonoughWith the procedural questions passed, they will still struggle to maintain unity in their ranks on politics, said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a law professor and immigration scholar at Cornell University.
“In short, to be successful, Democrats must pass a very thick immigration thread through a very small legislative needle,” he said.
• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.