Reconciliation is the process through which budget bills can pass the Senate with a simple majority of the votes. The idea, I take it, is that it’s so important to have a budget that the quest to pass one shouldn’t be subject to a veto by 41 Senators.
The Democrats intend to pass a massive spending bill via reconciliation. The bill, once it’s actually drafted and proposed, will be full of devices designed not just to increase spending, but to enhance the power of the federal government.
He says he’s always supported this type of immigration reform, dating back to the bipartisan attempt at it years ago. I doubt he has ever supported enacting such reform with only a simple majority of Senate votes as an end-run around the filibuster. However, his comments to date suggest this isn’t a problem for him.
Kyrsten Sinema’s support will also be required. Because she’s from a state at ground zero of the illegal immigration crisis, she may have more reservations than Manchin. However, it seems likely that, under intense pressure, she will go along with her party on this one.
Thus, the ability of Democrats to change our immigration laws with the backing of only 50 Senators will turn not on any elected official, but on the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough. She will be called on to decide whether the radical change the Dems seek can be accomplished through reconciliation.
The correct answer, of course, is that it can’t be. As the editors of National Review point out:
There are well-established guardrails for reconciliation, the so-called Byrd rule, to keep it from becoming an end-run around the filibuster for whatever a Senate majority wants to pass.
Among other things, the Byrd rule, which is written into statute, says that provisions that don’t have a budgetary impact or merely have an incidental budgetary impact can’t be included in reconciliation. “A provision shall be considered extraneous,” it says, “if it produces changes in outlays or revenues which are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision.”
The need for this limitation is obvious. Because virtually every piece of legislation has an incidental budgetary impact, without the limitation the filibuster is effectively abolished.
Equally obvious is the fact that the budgetary impact of granting amnesty to illegal immigrants is merely incidental to the grant. The editors of National Review note:
Democrats have advocated a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants for decades now, but never have they said that we must create one primarily as a budgetary matter — as if the status of illegal immigrants is a question comparable to the level of Medicare hospital reimbursements or unemployment benefits.
Rich Lowry makes additional points on the subject here.
Does this mean that the Senate parliamentarian will block the Democrats’ maneuver? Not necessarily. But if she doesn’t, then, as NR’s editors say, “the position of parliamentarian might as well be abolished since it will no longer serve any purpose.”