Senate Democrats have to date presented two different immigration proposals for inclusion in the budget reconciliation bill. Despite precedent for this process, Senate staffer and parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has released opinions against both. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the in-the-works “Plan C,” which would offer undocumented immigrants temporary deportation protections and work permits.
Now dozens of House members, including California Rep. Lou Correa, New York Rep. Adriano Espaillat, Illinois Rep. Chuy García, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal are urging Senate Democrats to champion immigrants, overrule MacDonough’s opinion with Vice President Kamala Harris as the 51st vote, and deliver permanent relief.
“As you know, the role of the Parliamentarian is an advisory one, and the opinion of the Parliamentarian is not binding,” dozens of legislators told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. They noted that “there is precedent of the Presiding Officer disregarding the opinion of the Senate Parliamentarian.”
Is this a big ask when Arizonans haven't been able to have a town hall with Krysten Sinema in years, and Joe Manchin is trying to whittle down the president’s agenda to a toothpick? Yes. But the fact is that a unified Democratic caucus absolutely has the ability to provide legislative relief, and it’s a fact that Democrats promised it. If Democrats fail, it’ll be a disservice not only to immigrants, but to their voters: “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of voters say they would be upset if immigration reform does not pass and undocumented immigrants remain vulnerable to deportation,” March polling found. That includes 86% of Democratic voters.
“In denying any possible pathway to citizenship or lawful permanent residents (LPRs) status, the Parliamentarian, an un-elected official, is denying the economic impact of such legislation and the tributes that millions of undocumented individuals have paid to this country,” legislators continued to Schumer. “This is a critical moment for our nation’s history, and we strongly urge the Presiding Officer to use their authority to disregard the Senate Parliamentarian’s ruling.”
Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, who passed a comprehensive immigration reform package by a huge 68-32 line back in 2013, said as much in recent remarks. “If my 2010 reelection to the Senate proved anything, it was that Democrats can fight and win on immigration. It makes policy sense and political sense and not just with Latino voters, but also with Americans of all backgrounds," he said according to The Hill.
“By 3-to-1 margins and across party lines, Americans want legal status for immigrants who have worked hard, paid taxes and made their lives in the United States,” Reid continued, noting that Democrats will have no excuses should they fail to deliver on a path to citizenship. “After decades of waiting to fix this broken immigration system, the voters that rejected Donald Trump’s nativism, and gave power to Democrats, are not going to give us a free pass if all we come back with are procedural excuses.”
“Republicans sure know how to get what they want through the parliamentarian,” Daily Kos’ Joan McCaster noted in July. Though not acknowledged in legislators’ letter to Schumer but previously noted by McCarter and Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson, Senate Republicans in 2001 fired Parliamentarian Robert Dove “after a dispute with the Republican leadership,” The Washington Post reported at the time. MacDonough, meanwhile, OK’d some partisan provisions in the GOP’s 2017 tax scam “despite the fact that they didn't have more than an ‘incidental’ impact on budgets,” McCarter noted. Meanwhile, immigration policy experts have said that “[o]n both the budgetary effect and the ‘merely incidental’ test, legalization qualifies.”
“We cannot give up on a pathway to citizenship,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “The economic impact of a pathway is undeniable, & we in Congress have a responsibility to act,” Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia tweeted. “Delivering on our promise will keep millions of families together, and will ensure that we build back better, and stronger than ever before from COVID-19. We must include it in budget reconciliation,” tweeted García. “Our immigrants have waited long enough,” said Espaillat.