Democrats who want to use their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill to permit millions of illegal immigrants to gain legal residency in the United States have been rebuffed a second time by parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough. The latest attempt by the Democrats involved changing the registry date for certain illegal immigrants to 2010, which would have permitted any illegal immigrants who have been in the United States since 2010 to apply for residency, an estimated 6.7 million people. The registry date is currently set at 1972.
“The immigration registry was created under the Registry Act of 1929, which created a process for immigrants to apply for a green card,” USA Today explained. “Those who currently qualify for the registry must have maintained continuous presence in the United States and were of ‘good moral character’ before January 1, 1972.”
But MacDonough ruled in her guidance that changing the registry date was a “weighty policy change and our analysis of this issue is thus largely the same” as the Democrats’ first proposal, The Hill reported. She added, “The change in status to LPR [lawful permanent residency] remains a life-long change in circumstances the value of which vastly outweighs its budgetary impact.”
As Roll Call notes, three House Democrats are threatening to vote against the package “unless it includes immigration provisions, nearly enough to sink the bill if Republicans are united in opposition.”
The initial attempt by Democrats was to use the spending bill to give 8 million green cards to “Dreamers,” temporary protected status (TPS) holders, agricultural workers, and other essential workers. But MacDonough ruled that such a move would be inappropriate for budget reconciliation, a process Democrats were hoping to use.
Here is how budget reconciliation works, and why the fact that the GOP lost control of the Senate by losing both Senate seats in Georgia and leaving a 50-50 tie in the 2020 election was critical:
Essentially, reconciliation is used to make passing legislation easier in the Senate. In the Senate, a party can filibuster an issue, holding it up. It requires 60 votes, called a supermajority, to override a filibuster. But certain budgetary legislation, using the reconciliation process, is permitted to pass by a simple majority of 51 votes, (or in this case, 50 Democrat votes plus Vice President Harris’ vote).
Usually a president submits a budget early in the year to Congress, triggering each house to propose a budget resolution. For the reconciliation process to commence, both houses of Congress must pass identical budget resolutions. When the agreed-upon resolution reaches the Senate, there’s a 20-hour time limit on debate. No filibuster is allowed after the debate although senators can offer amendments until they get too tired to stop.
Congress can pass as many as three reconciliation bills per year, one on spending, one on revenue, and one on the federal debt limit, although spending and revenue are often combined.
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