Senate parliamentarian deals blow to Dems’ immigration push


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The lawmaker’s opinion is important because it means immigration provisions cannot be included in the massive $3.5 trillion measure that has been shielded from the GOP filibuster

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WASHINGTON — Democrats can’t use their $3.5 trillion package to boost social and climate programs to give millions of immigrants a chance to become citizens, the Senate lawmaker said late Sunday, which has been a major challenge for the party in years. was the most obvious route. To achieve that long awaited goal.

The decision of Elizabeth McDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan interpreter of its often esoteric rules, is a damaging and depressing blow to President Joe Biden, congressional Democrats and their allies in the immigration and progressive communities. It badly dented Democrats’ hopes of enacting unilaterally – at Republican opposition – changes that would give multiple categories of immigrants permanent residency and possibly citizenship.


The lawmaker’s opinion is important because it means immigration provisions cannot be included in a massive $3.5 trillion measure that has been shielded from GOP filibusters. Left vulnerable to delays in those bill-killings, which require 60 Senate votes to defuse, immigration language has virtually no chance in the 50-50 Senate.

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In a three-page memo to senators obtained by the Associated Press, McDonough noted that under Senate rules, provisions in such bills are not allowed if their budget impact is “merely incidental” to their overall policy impact.

Citing the sweeping changes Democrats are seeking to make in the lives of immigrants, McDonough, a one-time immigration lawyer, said the language is “a comprehensive, new immigration policy by any standard.”

The disallowed provisions would open the multi-year door to legal permanent residency – and perhaps citizenship – for young immigrants brought into the country illegally as children, often referred to as “dreamers.” It will also include immigrants with temporary protected status who have fled countries plagued by natural disasters or extreme violence; Essential workers and agricultural workers.

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Estimates vary because many people may be in more than one category, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says 8 million people will be helped by the Democratic effort, McDonough said. Biden originally proposed a wider campaign that would have affected 11 million immigrants.

Democrats and their pro-immigration allies have said they would offer an alternative approach to McDonough that would open the door to permanent status for at least some immigrants.

“We are deeply disappointed by this decision but the fight to provide legal status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., said in a written statement. “Senate Democrats have prepared alternative proposals and will hold additional meetings with Senate lawmakers in the coming days.”

“What we know is true: the path to permanent residency and citizenship has a significant budgetary impact, great bipartisan support, and above all it is vital to America’s recovery,” said Kerry Talbot, deputy director of the Immigration Hub. Immigration strategist. “We will continue to work with members of Congress to ensure that millions of undocumented immigrants have permanent protection.”

The lawmaker’s rule was making progressive progress at a time when Democratic leaders would need nearly every vote in Congress to approve the 10-year, $3.5 trillion bill, which marks Biden’s top domestic goals.

It is with Republicans already indicating they will use immigration, linking it to some voters’ fear of guilt, as a top issue in next year’s campaigns for control of the House and Senate. The issue has attracted attention in a year when large numbers of immigrants have been encountered trying to cross the southwest border.

“Democratic leaders refuse to oppose their progressive base and stand up for the rule of law, even though our border has never been less secure,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He added that putting the provisions in the filibuster-protected budget measure is “unfair and I’m glad it failed.”

In fact, both sides have increased the use of special budget protections over the years. Democrats used them to enforce President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, and Republicans used them during their unsuccessful 2017 campaign to repeal that law.

Lindsey Graham, South Carolina’s top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said, “That would have increased the threshold — far beyond the chaos we already have today.” “Providing legal status before the border is secured and reforming the immigration process would be a terrible idea which is currently being misused.”

Advocates for an alternative have said they are exploring updating a “registry” date that allows certain immigrants to become permanent residents in the US by that time if they meet certain conditions. But it was not clear whether they would pursue that option or how MPs would govern.

White House spokesman Vedanta Patel called the lawmaker’s decision disappointing but said Senate negotiators would offer new immigration options.

McDonough cited a CBO estimate that the Democrats’ proposals would increase the federal deficit by $140 billion in the coming decade. This is largely due to the federal benefits for which immigrants will qualify.

But the fiscal impact, McDonough wrote, was fueled by the reforms that Democratic efforts would have for immigrants’ lives.

“Many undocumented individuals live and work in the shadow of our society for fear of deportation,” she said. Permanent legal status would give them “the freedom to work, the freedom to travel, the freedom to live freely in our society in any state in the country, and to be reunited with their families, and this would enable them to apply for citizenship.” to do — things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent.”

That, she wrote, is “tremendous and lasting policy change that minimizes its budgetary impact.”

Democrats and a handful of GOP allies have stalled progress during the past two decades toward legislation that would help millions of immigrants gain permanent legal status in America. Ultimately, they have been thwarted each time by widespread Republican opposition.

The House has approved different bills this year, but the measures have gone nowhere in the Senate because of Republican filibusters.

Altogether the $3.5 trillion bill will boost spending for social safety nets, the environment and other programs and largely fund initiatives with tax increases on the wealthy and corporations. Moderate Democrats want to reduce some provisions, including lowering its price tag, but progressives oppose reducing it.

Party leaders are still working on finding a compromise on comprehensive legislation that would satisfy nearly every Democrat in Congress. They can lose 50-50 no Democratic votes in the Senate and no more than three in the House.

McDonough was appointed to his position in 2012 after Democrats controlled the chamber and was honored as an equal arbiter of Senate rules.

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Earlier this year, one of his decisions forced Democrats to remove the minimum wage increase from a COVID-19 relief bill, making death one of the progressives’ top priorities.

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