Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a statement that “we need to explore every legislative option and go as big as we can on immigration with the votes we’ve got.” The assistant Democratic leader further said that “I am as committed as ever to… establishing a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living here.” In the midst of a record-breaking border crisis, Senate Democratic leadership is still laser-focused on amnestying as many illegal aliens as possible.
These remarks serve as a reminder that the amnesty battle is far from over in Congress’s upper chamber. For the better part of 2021, Senate Democrats tried to pass a massive social spending plan – the Build Back Better (BBB) Act – through the budget reconciliation process. This allows the party in power to pass items by a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote majority needed to overcome the filibuster.
The initial iteration of the BBB Act included an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. The Senate parliamentarian – a nonpartisan rules referee – found that the massive amnesty violated the Senate’s Byrd rule. The Byrd rule requires all policy passed through budget reconciliation to affect spending and revenue programs. The rule prevents the party in power from abusing the budget reconciliation process to pass unrelated policies, such as a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. The Senate parliamentarian ruled in three separate instances that immigration provisions in the Senate’s BBB proposals violated the Byrd rule. Further, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) stated that he would not support the BBB Act, killing the entire bill.
This left Democrats in a predicament. Passing an amnesty has been a staple of the Democratic Party’s platform since the end of the Obama era. With many pollsters indicating that Republicans could take back the House of Representatives following the 2022 midterm elections, many Democrats believe this is a narrowing window of opportunity to act on amnesty.
Coinciding with Senator Murray’s remarks, Bloomberg reported that a number of pro-amnesty groups will begin an intensive lobbying push on the question of amnesty. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) is pushing lawmakers to ignore the parliamentarian’s ruling and press forward with the planned amnesty. Another pro-amnesty group, America’s Voice, is also pressuring Senators to move forward with the original amnesty-laden BBB legislation.
It is unlikely – but not impossible – that Senate Democrats would use the reconciliation process to pass legislation solely pertaining to an immigration amnesty. They could, however, include it in a pared-down BBB Act. Senator Manchin never came out and stated that he opposed the immigration provisions of the original bill. Timing is not on the side of Senate Democrats, but if the assistant leader of their caucus says that immigration remains the party’s top priority, it must be taken seriously.
Senator Murray’s statement reminds us that the fight against amnesty legislation in the Senate is far from over.