For weeks, infrastructure has dominated policy discussions on Capitol Hill as Republicans and Democrats try to hash out a sought-after bipartisan package. Negotiations are ongoing, and the end result is far from certain. However, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has made clear that his deeply partisan infrastructure proposal will include an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.
First, we need some background on the infrastructure talks. There are currently two proposals in play. The first is an actual bipartisan bill negotiated by Senators in both parties. A group led by Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) continues discussing issues where the parties overlap in agreement. That is mostly on physical improvements to roads, bridges, airports, and harbors. Their main disagreement is over funding. Namely, how to pay for $579 billion in new spending. Negotiations take time, and this group is trying to thread the needle on crafting a bill that can overcome 60 votes in the Senate.
But that effort has infuriated far-left, progressive Democrats who want the infrastructure package to include everything from climate change legislation to an immigration overhaul. So, while moderates negotiate with Republicans on a bill that can appeal to both sides of the aisle, the radical faction of the Democratic caucus plans to introduce a bill they believe can pass through reconciliation. Reconciliation is a tool allowing the majority to pass bills – supposedly related to the budget – that requires only a simple majority to pass, bypassing the Senate’s cloture rule, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance. However, reconciliation has complex requirements – known as the “Byrd Rule” – leaving many to question if including policies like immigration would pass muster with the Senate parliamentarian.
Senator Sanders, in his role as Budget Committee chairman, is far more interested in the second option. Sanders has routinely denounced the bipartisan package, arguing that Democrats must seize the moment and boldly advance their agenda by steamrolling Republicans through the reconciliation process. The Los Angeles Times reports that Sanders plans to include an immigration amnesty in his broader far-left package. According to the Times:
[Sanders] confirmed Tuesday that it would include a pathway to citizenship, but said Democrats are still determining who would be covered… An early draft would call for $150 billion to go toward immigration policies, including the path to citizenship and some border security, according to a document circulating on Capitol Hill.
This reflects long-held fears that Democrats plan to inject the reconciliation bill with a number of progressive and far-left priorities, including a massive amnesty for illegal aliens. Dan Stein, FAIR’s president, argued in a May 7th opinion piece that Democrats were working with open-borders groups such as FWD.us to make this a reality.
Increasingly, it appears that Democrats plan to have their cake and eat it too by attempting to pass both bills: the bipartisan package negotiated in good faith and then the budget reconciliation behemoth packed with liberal wish-list items.
This is the wrong way to go about legislating, let alone making massive changes to a policy area as complex as immigration. Historically, major changes to immigration policy occurred on a bipartisan basis, like national defense and foreign policy. Earlier attempts at comprehensive immigration reform failed because they did not meet this balance and skewed too heavily toward amnesty without enhanced enforcement and an appropriate number of changes to the system. Passing a mass amnesty with a simple majority in the Senate using the budget reconciliation process betrays this bipartisan tradition and is simply wrong.
Sanders has not introduced his bill yet, and the process is still ongoing. But no matter the outcome, FAIR will continue monitoring these developments and will fight to keep immigration out of these infrastructure packages.