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Senator Menendez: We should move forward on immigration reform in the Senate, “if necessary through reconciliation”

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Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a longtime and leading champion of immigration reform, urged President Biden in a recent Oval Office meeting to get immigration reform done this year, even if it means using budget reconciliation. 

Senator Menendez is playing a central role in Senate deliberations to enact pathways to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. His support for including legalization measures on a measure that requires 51 votes, such as on the next jobs package widely expected to end up going through on reconciliation, significantly boosts chances of success this year.

As Jonathan Salant writes for NJ.com, “Immigration reform will move ahead even if Republicans try to stop it, Menendez says:

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez once helped write a bipartisan immigration bill supported by more than two-thirds of the Senate. But if Republicans won’t join him this time, he said Democrats will try to pass it themselves under a special parliamentary procedure.

Emerging from a meeting at the White House with President Joe Biden and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Menendez told NJ Advance Media that proponents of overhauling immigration laws would consider using what is known as reconciliation to pass the bill by a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster. That’s how Congress passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill after every Republican opposed it.

“I specifically urged the president to lean in on the question of getting some significant reform done in the Senate, if necessary through reconciliation,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

…Menendez said the immigration bill should be eligible for reconciliation because it would have such a huge impact on the budget, boosting the U.S. economy, adding millions of jobs, and reducing the deficit. “Those are powerful economic issues,” he said.

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

Senator Menendez is committed to using every ounce of their power to win long overdue legislation that puts millions of undocumented immigrants on pathways to citizenship. This is the latest sign that we’re closer than ever to a legislative breakthrough this year.

Senator Menendez was a charter member of the bipartisan Gang of 8 in 2013. He helped negotiate sweeping immigration reform legislation that passed the Senate by a vote of 68-32. Subsequently, House Republicans blocked a vote on the measure and it failed as a result. 

The Senator is now suggesting that while bipartisanship would be nice, the necessity of getting something may well require going it alone. The way to do so is to bypass the bad faith Republicans who want to thwart progress for political reasons, and pass immigration reform as part of the next jobs package. This approach puts the power where it belongs – in the hands of the pro-immigrant Democratic party. 

We thank the Senator for his leadership and we join with him in saying that this is the year, and this may well be the only way to get it done.