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Dems bet their political chips on party-line immigration reform

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Democrats’ best and likely last chance this Congress to deliver immigration reform now rests on an arcane argument: that giving undocumented immigrants legal residency would affect the federal budget.

With bipartisan immigration talks stalled, the White House and congressional Democrats are pushing to add a path to legal residency for 8 million immigrants to their sprawling social spending plan this fall. In order to steer that help for Dreamers, essential workers and those with Temporary Protected Status past a filibuster, though, the party has to win over the Senate parliamentarian, the chamber’s non-partisan rules arbiter.

In order to gain the parliamentarian's approval and get immigration attached to the party-line spending plan, Democrats essentially need to demonstrate that their proposal would have a significant effect on federal spending, revenues or debt. Democrats assert that offering a pathway to legal status would make those included eligible for certain federal benefits — and thus impact the budget. They also claim precedent is on their side, highlighting a 2005 GOP-led bill that addressed immigration as part of the so-called budget reconciliation process, the same path they’re using this year to avoid the need for Republican votes.

Reaching a deal with Republicans on immigration is “at the best elusive and doesn’t seem to me that we can really get there,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who introduced President Joe Biden’s immigration reform bill earlier this year. “Reconciliation is our best chance: one because it’s must-pass, and two, because obviously we can do it with a majority vote.”

The Democratic plea to the parliamentarian — which could be decided as early as this week — is narrow and tries to use a longstanding talking point of immigration reform opponents against them: Extending legal status to new populations would cost the federal government billions. It’s also the party’s strongest remaining chance at progress before the midterms.

Democrats haven’t seen this promising an opportunity for major immigration reform,........

© Politico

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