Another budget reconciliation bill is likely on the horizon, and Democrats are eyeing the measure as a vehicle for a policy priority long mired in partisan disagreement: immigration overhaul.
In the coming months, congressional Democrats and the White House could use a budgetary maneuver requiring a simple Senate majority to advance a sweeping infrastructure package. The possibility became more serious Monday when the Senate parliamentarian ruled that a revised budget resolution could potentially be used to pass another reconciliation bill.
While far from certain that any immigration provisions could make it into another parliamentarian-approved reconciliation bill, spurred on by immigration advocates desperate for legislative action, Democrats plan to try.
“We think we can make a case about the budget impacts of immigration in our country, and we are going to try to do that,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on a call with Asian American Pacific Islander leaders last week, referencing the Byrd rule, which excludes non-budgetary provisions from reconciliation bills.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat sponsoring the comprehensive immigration bill backed by the White House, “will not foreclose any tool that will ultimately allow Democrats to give a pathway to citizenship to as many undocumented immigrants as possible,” said his spokesman Robert Julien.
Any successful attempt to include immigration-related provisions in a future reconciliation bill would likely make government benefits such as stimulus checks available to immigrant populations, said Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. But she’s less sure about broader provisions to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegals.
“It would come as no surprise if Democrats tried to convince themselves and the Senate Parliamentarian that somehow amnesty for illegal immigrants belongs in a budget reconciliation bill,” House Budget ranking member Jason Smith, R-Mo., said in a statement.”
Democrats are largely undeterred by such criticisms, hoping to take advantage of their current control of the White House and Congress.
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Ca., who was appointed to the Senate in January and chairs the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship panel, “is exploring all options to include immigration provisions in a future reconciliation package and thinks there is a strong case to make sure that they are included,” according to a statement from his office.