Immigration Reform Won’t Make The Cut

Written by SK Ashby

It remains to be seen what a final reconciliation spending bill will look like once moderate Democrats play all of their hands, but there's at least one thing we can say definitely won't be included in it.

As many including myself have casually predicted, the Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that immigration reform measures that will create a path to citizenship, among other things, cannot be included because they aren't predominately a matter of spending.

In the decision, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, the parliamentarian determined that the Democrats’ proposal is “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy” and that the policy change “substantially outweighs the budgetary impact of that change.” [...]

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sunday evening that Democrats are "deeply disappointed in the decision" but plan to meet with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days and pursue other options.

"Our economy depends more than ever on immigrants," Schumer said. "Despite putting their lives on the line during the pandemic and paying their fair share of taxes, they remain locked out of the federal assistance that served as a lifeline for so many families. We will continue fighting to pursue the best path forward to grant them the ability to obtain lawful status.”

Schumer isn't wrong and our immigration system does need to be completely rebuilt, but stuffing reform inside a reconciliation bill was never going to work. It may have been worth the rhetorical effort to try in any case, but this was predictable.

It's entirely understandable that some Democrats believe the best way pass their own priorities is to attach them to a larger bill that will make it more difficult for other Democrats to vote against it, but Democrats should also be concerned about mission creep that threatens the passage of anything at all.

That doesn't mean that some issues like immigration reform are necessarily less important, it only means that passing as many policies as possible sometimes requires shrewd calculations and sacrifice. The alternative is passing none of your priorities rather than some of them. Pragmatism will never not be a best practice.