WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Budget Committee chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says that, if necessary, he supports overruling the Senate parliamentarian to include immigration reform in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget agreement.
“The time is very long overdue for us to have comprehensive reform and why many people say it will be in there,” Senator Sanders told Latino Rebels on Tuesday afternoon, “but this is something that will need to go through the parliamentarian.”
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is responsible for interpreting the rules and parliamentary procedures of the upper chamber of Congress. When asked by Latino Rebels if he supports overruling MacDonough if she advises against including immigration reform in Senate Democrats’ budget reconciliation package, Senate Sanders did not waffle: “The answer is yes.”
“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters on Monday when asked if he supports overruling MacDonough.
Durbin was also asked by reporters if budget reconciliation would include a potential path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants or just immigrant youth protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) before the program was ordered to an end last Friday by a federal judge.
“I hope it goes bigger,” Durbin said.
According to the Congressional Research Service, budget reconciliation is a complicated procedure allowed under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 through which Congress can pass a budget “affecting mainly permanent spending and revenue programs” with the main focus of deficit reduction. Budget reconciliation “prohibits inclusion in reconciliation of matter [sic] unrelated to the deficit reduction goals of the reconciliation process.”
In practice, budget reconciliation allows Senate Democrats to pass budget legislation by a simple majority, thus avoiding the inevitable Republican filibuster.
By including immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion budget agreement reached last week by Senate Democrats, the majority party can, in theory, pass changes to federal immigration laws that have been long-sought by a generation of progressives and moderates in both chambers of Congress. The last major reform to immigration law was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.
Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) both indicated to Latino Rebels last week that there was funding for immigration reform in Senate Democrats’ budget proposal.
Latino Rebels also asked Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) about the budget deal.
“Right now the plan is a topline dollar number,” Warren said last Thursday. “Then the [Senate] Judiciary Committee will take jurisdiction and work through the details and make a recommendation to the rest of the [Democratic] caucus.”
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) cautioned that there are limits to what can be passed through budget reconciliation, the legislative maneuver that the Democratic majorities in Congress are expected to use to pass the sweeping budget proposal, adding that “whatever vehicles we can find to do immigration reform are good ones. ”
“My hope is that our bipartisan efforts will yield results but if not, then yes I would,” said Senator Bob Menendez when asked by Latino Rebels if he supported including immigration reform in the budget legislation.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) when asked the same. “It just depends on what it looks like.”
Democratic Senators Chris Murphy (CT), Cory Booker (NJ), Ben Ray Luján (NM) and Brian Schatz (HI) have all indicated to Latino Rebels they support including immigration reform in the budget agreement.
Pablo Manríquez is Latino Rebels’ Washington correspondent. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.