Immigration Plan in Democrats’ Bill Undergoes Senate Rules Test

  • Work permits, deportation protection under Senate review
  • Changes to Democrats’ immigration proposal are likely

Lawmakers and advocates expect changes to the latest immigration provisions in Democrats’ sweeping social spending and tax bill, but the scope depends on the outcome of a formal meeting that took place Wednesday before a key Senate official.

Democratic and Republican staffers met with the Senate parliamentarian to discuss whether a plan, known as parole, to grant temporary work permits and deportation protections to some undocumented immigrants belongs in the the bill, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

Advocates are already expecting to see changes to the current language, at the very least to address a cost issue. They also anticipate the potential removal of provisions that don’t have a direct spending or revenue impact, including a limit on the Department of Homeland Security’s ability to revoke parole.

“It would be helpful to keep, but that is one of the examples of agency guidance here,” Immigration Hub Deputy Director Kerri Talbot said during a press call Wednesday. “That being said, she could always also say that she thinks that these are essential elements of the proposal,” Talbot said, referring to Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian.

Immigrants Gain Limited Protection, Backlog Help in Budget Bill

Photo: Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
The office of the Parliamentarian of the U.S. Senate.

The issue is whether the provisions are deemed primarily budget-related. Democrats are pursuing the major agenda bill using budget reconciliation, a procedure that requires all provisions to affect the federal budget.

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Tuesday said lawmakers planned to wait for feedback from the parliamentarian before making any changes. Senate Democrats plan to consider the bill before the end of the year but haven’t set a specific timeline.

MacDonough is a staff lawyer who advises on what can be included in budget reconciliation legislation, has rejected previous immigration proposals that included a path to citizenship.

Third Try

Wednesday’s meeting featured arguments from both Democratic and Republican aides. One person familiar with the proceedings said MacDonough didn’t show which way she was leaning and didn’t indicate a timeline for making a decision.

House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who helped craft the immigration language in the House, said he’s optimistic.

“This is the third try,” he said earlier Wednesday. “There is no reason that they shouldn’t just accept it.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and other detractors argue that the program amounts to a sweeping policy change that doesn’t belong in the bill.

Separate immigration provisions that aim to speed up the legal immigration process and address backlogs haven’t yet been presented to the parliamentarian. Talbot said she expects that to happen soon.

With assistance from Erik Wasson

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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