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Reconciliation as the Way Forward on Citizenship Legislation Gains Momentum

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Greg Sargent: “Does anybody imagine there will come a point when Republicans will say, ‘Okay, Biden’s totally got the border under control now, so let’s get serious about working with Democrats on legalizing a lot of immigrants’?”

The idea of using reconciliation as a vehicle for enacting long overdue citizenship legislation is gaining a whole lot of momentum. 

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Democrats are preparing a Plan B – to use their majority to deliver citizenship via the budget reconciliation process if bipartisan legislative negotiations are derailed. It surprised many. But not us. We believe a Democrats-only process requiring 50 votes instead of 60 is the best way to a breakthrough. 

For starters, Senate Republicans engaged in bipartisan discussions are being led by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). Big red flag. For two decades Cornyn has perfected what we call the “Cornyn Con.” He preens, postures and pretends to want immigration reform. Then he blows up the bipartisan discussions so he can blame Democrats.

Democrats and progressives know that performative GOP bipartisanship is a dead end. That’s why many leading lawmakers and thought leaders argue that reconciliation is the way forward to victory.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): As Roll Call reported in April, “‘We think we can make a case about the budget impacts of immigration in our country, and we are going to try to do that,’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on a call … referencing the Byrd rule, which excludes non budgetary provisions from reconciliation bills.”
  • Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ): After a late April White House meeting with President Biden, Senator Menendez told Jonathan Salant of NJ.com, “I specifically urged the President to lean in on the question of getting some significant reform done in the Senate, if necessary through reconciliation.”
  • Senator Patty Murray (D-WA): Senator Murray, part of Democrats’ leadership team, stated: “We need to look at every legislative path possible to get comprehensive immigration reform done – including through reconciliation.”
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus letter from 100 House Democrats: Earlier this year, a letter signed by 100 Members and led by the CHC called for a “pathway to citizenship for essential immigrant workers and their families, Dreamers, and TPS holders in the COVID-19 reconciliation recovery package.”
  • Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA): “We feel very strongly as a progressive caucus that there should be a pathway to citizenship for essential workers … We think that there is good reason to believe this falls within the reconciliation guideline”
  • Greg Sargent of the Washington Post: “Here’s how this scam works: There is no point at which Republicans will ever acknowledge that this ‘crisis’ is being managed. They have already telegraphed that they hope to win back control of Congress in 2022 largely with a message hyping this ‘crisis.’ … Does anybody imagine there will come a point when Republicans will say, ‘Okay, Biden’s totally got the border under control now, so let’s get serious about working with Democrats on legalizing a lot of immigrants’? Of course not.”
  • Steve Benen of MSNBC: “For much of the last two decades, conservative Republicans have said there’s a ‘crisis’ that needs to be resolved before GOP lawmakers will consider reform legislation. And every time border security is strengthened, those same Republicans insist it’s not enough … The GOP position has a Zeno’s paradox-like problem: There’s no way to ever actually reach the point at which Republicans are satisfied that the ‘crisis’ has been fully resolved.”
  • Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post: “…with one party now in the throes of white supremacy and ‘replacement theory,’ opposition from Republicans in Congress will be intense. Today’s GOP simply does not believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and a beacon of hope to the world.”

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

This is the year for Democrats to make it happen. Indulging the ‘Cornyn Con’ is a legislative death sentence. It’s time to get real. Republicans are obsessed with deploying xenophobia to deliver for the Trumpy base. Democrats need to be more obsessed with deploying every ounce of their power to deliver for the multiracial majority that elected them.