One day after an initial “informal” meeting, Senate Democrats again met with Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to officially make the case for the inclusion of temporary immigration protections in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. This is now the third attempt.
”Under the so-called Byrd rule, reconciliation bills, which can pass with a filibuster-proof majority, must primarily impact the federal budget,” Roll Call reported. Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter noted that MacDonough didn’t endorse or reject the proposal following Tuesday’s informal meeting. Roll Call reports that aides at Wednesday’s official meeting said it was a “productive conversation.”
Under the plan passed by House Democrats last month, more than 7 million immigrants could be eligible for work permits, deportation protections, and international travel authorization for a period of up to 10 years. “The original proposal included a path to citizenship for approximately 8 million undocumented immigrants,” McCarter noted, but has sequentially been watered down as MacDonough, an unelected Senate staffer, has issued nonbinding opinion after nonbinding opinion against protections.
But the report indicated there could still be more “revisions” to satisfy MacDonough, who, once again, was elected by no one and whose opinions are nonbinding and can be overruled. “This is the formal Byrd bath, not the final Byrd bath,” Immigration Hub Deputy Director Kerri Talbot told Roll Call. “There will have to be some adjustments,” California Sen. Alex Padilla said in the report. “We’re gonna go to the parliamentarian first and then adjust.”
McCarter wrote that following House passage last month, more than 90 House Democrats issued a call encouraging the Senate to get a pathway to citizenship back in the bill, noting the current provisions are “another form of temporary reprieve. We now write to urge you and the rest of our colleagues in the Senate to reinstate a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS [temporary protected status] holders, farm workers, and essential workers in the Senate’s version of the reconciliation bill.”
“Budget reconciliation is the only means, as of now, by which Democrats can pass substantive legislation because it is not subject to the filibuster,” McCarter noted. “Absent an agreement from a few Democratic senators to end the filibuster, this is the only game in town for fulfilling a decades-long promise.”
Immigrants and their advocates have for months been urging Congressional Democrats to use their majority to make good on their promise. They continued this week. “We are urging Democrats to step into their own political power, to disregard the parliamentarian’s advisory opinion and enact the permanent relief that millions of immigrants who call our country home, and who are essential to who we are as a nation, absolutely need,” National Immigration Law Center Executive Director Marielena Hincapié said in the report.
It’s unclear when MacDonough will issue her nonbinding opinion. In the case of the second immigration proposal, it came pretty quickly. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin told Bloomberg Government a nonbinding opinion could come “within a day or two.”
In a statement last month supporting House passage of the temporary provisions, America’s Voice acknowledged that while the plan “does not include the path to citizenship that America’s immigrants have earned,” it “represents a huge step forward.” Executive Director Frank Sharry told Roll Call that if MacDonough “guts” the temporary protections, “and uses her power recklessly, to once again thwart the futures of millions, I think there will be a stronger push from the outside and from within the Senate to ignore a politicized ruling.”