Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Wednesday appeared to deal a potentially fatal blow to Democrats’ efforts to include amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants in the Democratic reconciliation – ruling out bypassing the Senate parliamentarian or passing amnesty without border security measures.
Democrats are currently walking a legislative tightrope as they seek to pass an enormous spending package via both a slim majority in the House and a budget reconciliation process in the Senate to avoid a Republican filibuster.
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In the Senate, Democrats will need every one of their 50 senators to vote for the package – including Manchin, who has been skeptical of a number of elements of the broad package and has called on his colleagues to take more time on it.
“Take a breath, let’s look at this.” he told Fox News’ Bret Baier on Wednesday. “We’re talking about major tax overhaul reform. We’re talking about changing our energy policies. We’re talking about a whole social rearrangement. We’re talking about $29 trillion of debt. So we better get our hands around it and be responsible.
On immigration, the Senate parliamentarian has so far shot down two proposals to give pathways to citizenship or other legal protections to illegal immigrants already in the country — saying that it does not meet the criteria for a budget reconciliation bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the first of those plans would increase deficits by $500 billion by 2041.
The parliamentarian is currently considering a “Plan C” that involves a broad use of humanitarian parole, but some progressives Democrats have called on their colleagues to forge forward and bypass the parliamentarian completely if proposals keep getting shot down.
“I hope she will find her way to say yes this time, but we will not accept no as an answer at the end of the day,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ, said last month.
“In denying any possible pathway to citizenship or lawful permanent residents status, the Parliamentarian, an unelected official, is denying the economic impact of such legislation and the tributes that millions of undocumented individuals have paid to this country,” dozens of progressive House Democrats said in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last month.
“This is a critical moment for out nation’s history, and we strongly urge the Presiding Officer to use their authority to disregard the Senate Parliamentarian’s ruling,” they wrote.
But, Manchin shot down talk of overruling the parliamentarian when he spoke with Fox News – opposition that would torpedo any effort to bypass the official.
“I’m not going to vote to overrule the parliamentarian,” he said.
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Manchin was then asked if, even without the issue of the parliamentarian, if he would support some kind of amnesty provision without extra border security provisions. Currently none of the proposals contain any border security provisions, which would likely see opposition from far-left Democrats.
“No,” Manchin said, before referring to the ongoing crisis at the border.
“For us to even be talking about immigration without border security is ludicrous,” he said. “I’ve told them…the average person turns on the TV and sees what’s going on in the border, and that basically scares the bejesus out of an awful lot of people,” he said. “If [migrants] think they can come and get all the different benefits that people, the citizens of America get are entitled to, they’re going to continue to come. So, no, I don’t think so.”
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He also noted that past immigration and amnesty proposals have included significant border security provisions in order to gain support from moderate Democrats and some Republicans. He said he would be open to that kind of deal.
“Border security, in 2013, the bill that we did, we tried to have a pathway to citizenship. We take care of our Dreamers, which I have a lot of compassion for and I would love to do something for people that came, even if they came wrong — pay your fine, get in line 10 years back, you won’t be jumping the line,” he said. “But nobody becomes a citizen until the border is declared secure.”
Manchin’s combination of not supporting overruling the parliamentarian and not supporting an amnesty provision unattached to significant border security provisions would appear to dash Democratic hopes of passing amnesty once again. Without Manchin’s support, it cannot get through the chamber unless a Republican breaks in favor — of which there has been so sign.
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Democrats and the White House proposed a sweeping immigration proposal earlier this year, but that quickly stalled as Republicans — even those who had supported past immigration reform bills — ruled out their support until the border was secure. Outside of the budget reconciliation process, such a bill would need 60 Senate votes — meaning it would need 10 Republicans to support it, in addition to moderate Democrats like Manchin.