Democrats ponder tough tactics to overtake parliamentarian on immigration
Senate Democrats ponder a long-running bid to push immigration reform onto President Biden’s desk as they struggle to fulfill years of campaign promises.
Advice from Congresswoman Elizabeth MacDonough, who this week rejected the Democrats’ third immigration proposal, is fueling conversations in the Senate Democratic caucus about trying to circumvent the nonpartisan, unelected Senate adjudicator.
Democrats have not found a strategy to fit immigration legislation into Biden’s massive climate and social spending package, which is in limbo until at least January. But they leave the door open either to try to override MacDonough’s non-binding advice or to override her completely in the Senate.
“All the tools that exist, whether legislative or procedural, must be kept on the table. … We must pursue all options,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján (DN.M.).
Sen. Bob Menendez (DN.J.), who was involved in the negotiations, said they were “considering all legislative, procedural, administrative options, so we’ll see.”
Luján and Menendez released a statement with the senses. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) — backed by Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (NY) and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 1 and 2 Democrats in the Senate, respectively – in which they pledged to “pursue all means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act”.
When asked if Democrats would try to officially vote to overthrow MacDonough or put someone in the chair who ignores her advice, which she frequently speaks to the presiding Senate senator, Durbin leaned in, saying the statement “speaks for itself”.
And an executive aide stressed that Democrats were seriously considering “any means necessary” when asked if Schumer would support reversing the congresswoman’s decision or disregarding her advice.
The Democrats’ latest immigration proposal — which would have granted temporary parole with no path to citizenship to an estimated 6.5 million people — is the latest casualty of MacDonough’s advice. Democrats previously presented her with two plans that would have provided citizenship to up to 8 million immigrants, but she rejected both.
Democrats also scrapped a plan to provide a $15-an-hour minimum wage on a coronavirus relief bill rather than confront his advice that he failed to comply with tough budget rules that govern which may be in the bill because Democrats are using reconciliation to circumvent the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
But his latest immigration ruling has sparked a fierce backlash from Senate Democrats, adding further momentum to the attempt to challenge his advice on the ground or set it aside altogether.
“The parliamentarian got it wrong, in law. The Reconciliation Bill has included immigration provisions several times in the past, and this bill has clearly passed the budget impact threshold. … We let’s keep all the options on the table,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) added that Democrats should keep “all options” on the table.
“The protection of millions of undocumented immigrants cannot be interrupted by one person’s advice,” she tweeted.
Immigration advocates have pointed to statements by former congressmen Bob Dove and Alan Frumin to bolster their case for Democrats to sidestep or ignore MacDonough’s advice.
And Democrats are facing intense pressure from House Democrats and immigration reform groups, who have delved deep into the details of Senate procedure to propose pathways to include immigration in the law Project.
“I think members of the House — the House Hispanic caucus — will have a hard time voting on it,” Menendez said, asking if the bill might have trouble passing without immigration reform.
Three House members — Reps. Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (DN.Y.) and Jesús García (D-Ill.) — played key roles in keeping immigration provisions in place. the House-passed version of the bill initially threatening to vote against it if the provisions were removed.
And Padilla said on Friday that the legislation will “have a hard time getting through the Senate unless there’s something on immigration,” according to a Bloomberg report.
Immigrant rights advocates say they are exhausted by Senate procedure, which many see as an unnecessary obstacle to important legislation.
“This is a hellish way to run a democracy. An unelected staff lawyer in a supposedly non-political role is making yet another political decision to thwart the freedom and future of millions of undocumented immigrants,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigrant advocacy organization.
A coalition of advocacy groups even launched a campaign called “Ignore Parliamentarian” as a sort of clearinghouse for legal, historical and advocacy resources supporting their proposal.
Other advocates worry that Democrats are alienating immigrant activists who have been volunteers and key staffers in the party’s recent winning campaigns.
“It’s going to be a very rough road if Democrats don’t keep their promises and step in,” said Yaritza Mendez, co-organizing director of Make the Road New York, a grassroots immigrant group that campaigned. for Democrats.
But the fight against immigration has turned into a microcosm of the broader struggles to pass the Build Back Better bill, which is collapsing as Schumer tries to debate the priorities of his 50-member caucus.
Trying to play hardball with the Senate parliamentarian risks upsetting moderate senators. Schumer spent months trying to get his voice heard to vote for the legislation.
Democrats could try to formally overrule the congressman with a simple majority in the Senate, but that would likely fail.
Instead of trying to formally overrule MacDonough, some activists are instead urging Democrats to nominate someone, likely Vice President Harris, as Senate Speaker and ignore guidelines that the Democrats’ immigration plan violates the budget rules governing what may be in the spending bill.
Some supporters prefer this strategy because they believe it would take 60 senators to vote for the immigration plan to violate budget rules.
But it could also risk backlash from a broader group of centrist senators or longtime institutionalists.
“I don’t think we’d ever get 50 votes. … That’s more the crux of the matter. It’s a pretty dramatic change,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).
Cardin warned that a “direct attack with the parliamentarian” would fail, but predicted that Democrats “will find a way” to push forward immigration reform.
Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) has repeatedly vowed that he will not overturn the Senate adjudicator’s decision, saying, “You stay with the parliamentarian…on every issue. You can’t choose .”
Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) also signaled her support for the congressman, saying earlier this year, “There is no instance in which I would overrule a congressman’s decision.”
A spokeswoman for Sinema said on Friday she supports comprehensive immigration reform and is “reviewing and discussing the latest decision on the fiscal reconciliation package with the Senate parliamentarian and her Senate colleagues.”
Several Democrats have not yet pledged to challenge the parliamentarian.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona) said he was open to “options” but did not say whether that meant he was willing to try to overthrow or avoid the congressman.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), the longest-serving Senate Democrat, said his colleagues hadn’t brought up the tough tactics with him — ‘nobody told me anything about it’ — then moved on. railed against Republicans for not accepting immigration reform in the past.
“I want to do an immigration package. I remember when I had an immigration bill. … We got almost 70 votes here in the Senate,” Leahy said, noting that House Republicans wouldn’t talk about it because of an informal rule named after former Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) requiring bills to have majority support.
“Now, a few years later,” he said, “when Dennis Hastert was in prison, they might have felt differently.”