Politico reports that Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who is an employee of the chamber, will this Friday hear “dueling arguments” over the inclusion of immigration provisions in Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending package. Those provisions would create a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, temporary status holders, and essential laborers like farmworkers.
Democrats will argue that there is precedent for passing these provisions through the budget reconciliation process (and there is). Senate Republicans will oppose it, because they’re Senate Republicans. Beltway reporting has framed MacDonough’s opinion as a final ruling, the last word, do not pass go, do not collect a pathway to citizenship. But as Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter has previously written, it’s an opinion Senate Democrats are free to reject. It’s really all up to them.
Leading into this Friday’s meeting, policy experts and advocates have already publicly made the case for passing immigration provisions through the budget reconciliation process. “In 2005, the Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly passed a version of what ultimately became the Deficit Reduction Act through reconciliation, containing several relevant immigration provisions,” the Center for American Progress (CAP) acting Vice President of Immigration Phil Wolgin wrote in July.
2005 would mean that the presidency and both chambers of Congress were under Republican control at the time. In fact, Emerson Collective Managing Director of Immigration Marshall Fitz wrote last month that “[s]everal of the senators currently claiming this effort is impermissible” supported that effort. Their names? Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. “That legislation would have significantly increased the number of green cards available each year, making an additional 3.24 million people eligible for permanent residence over a decade, precisely the type of policy being proposed by Democrats today,” Fitz continued.
Senators are making their case to MacDonough as dozens of economists have added their names to a letter to Democratic leaders in support of passing these immigration provisions through reconciliation, “arguing that it would bolster the US economy,” CNN reported.
“Such a policy would increase wages and productivity throughout the U.S.economy, create jobs, generate additional tax revenue, strengthen worker protections for immigrant and native workers alike, and lift many families out of poverty,” the letter states. “Across the country, there are an estimated 10.4 million undocumented immigrants in the country, including 5 million of whom are working in occupations and industries that were deemed essential by the federal government.”
Senate Democrats should make their case when they meet with the parliamentarian this Friday, because it’s a legitimate case. But Senate Democrats should ultimately remember that they, not MacDonough, are in charge. Senate Democrats hold the majority, and with a vote from Vice President Kamala Harris, can overrule the parliamentarian’s opinion if necessary. McCarter previously noted how when Senate Republicans didn’t get the opinion they wanted from the parliamentarian in 2001, they fired him.
“In 2001, then-Majority Leader Trent Lott fired Bob Dove, who was parliamentarian, for ‘recent rulings that effectively made it harder for the GOP to push President Bush's budget and tax cut proposals through the evenly divided body,’” she wrote. But the difference here is that Senate Democrats stand to enact provisions that do good, not only protecting millions of undocumented immigrants, but that also aid in our nation’s economic recovery. Researchers have said that a pathway to citizenship for Dream and Promise-eligible immigrants and essential immigrant workers “would boost the GDP by a cumulative total of $1.5 trillion over 10 years and create 400,800 new jobs.”
Democrats must keep their promise to immigrant communities and the voters who put them in power during this previous election. ”The political moment to enact a citizenship measure is now,” dozens of organizations told Congress last month. “It’s been 35 years since the last meaningful pathway to citizenship legislation was enacted. And after four years of continuous and relentless attacks on immigrant communities—even while they played instrumental roles in keeping the country alive and moving during a global pandemic—it’s time to act. There is no moral and economic recovery without including immigrants.”