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Democrats prep 'Plan B' after immigration bid rejected

Suzanne Monyak, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Democrats are preparing alternative options to present to the Senate parliamentarian to get immigration provisions into a sprawling $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation measure after she rebuffed their first attempt to include a path to legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., a key player in immigration discussions, told reporters Monday that Democrats “will be going back to the parliamentarian with other options in the coming days.”

“She gave her view on only one approach on including a pathway to citizenship in reconciliation,” Menendez said, just hours after Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough shot down efforts to include a path to legal status for certain immigrants in the bill.

“I certainly intend to keep working until we get to a yes, and we’re not going to take no for an answer.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer also indicated those plans, saying in a statement Sunday night that Senate Democrats “have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”

The alternative options are part of a back-and-forth likely to ensue with the parliamentarian, as Democrats work to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants for the first time in decades before potentially losing their congressional majorities in the 2022 midterm elections.


In her decision, MacDonough said she found the proposed provisions, which would have covered millions of undocumented immigrants, including those brought to the U.S. as children, did not comply with Senate procedural rules governing the reconciliation process. Under the so-called “Byrd rule,” measures included in a reconciliation bill — which can pass with a simple majority — must directly have a budgetary impact.

“Changing the law to clear the way to (lawful permanent resident) status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” she wrote.

One alternative being explored, according to Menendez, could be to move up the date on the immigration registry, an existing law currently set at 1972, which would allow immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since that date and who have demonstrated “good moral character” to become permanent residents.

Menendez said he would “personally prefer” this option, since it would involve an update, not a change, to the law, which could be more palatable to the nonpartisan parliamentarian.


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