The frightening possibility that a huge amnesty program for as many as eight million illegal aliens would be included in the impending budget reconciliation bill was addressed by The Hill late last week. (My colleagues, Art Arthur, Jason Richwine, and Rob Law have written about some of the bill's immigration provisions.)
If that happens, we might find that a major public policy decision was made without any hearings, without any in-committee votes, and perhaps without any floor votes on the subject. The general expectation is that the president would sign such a bill.
There are a number of obstacles to such an outcome, but the prospect is chilling.
There is an exception to the Senate’s general filibuster rule for budget reconciliation bills; these can be passed by a majority vote (or, these days, a 50-50 tie broken by the vice president). So if the Democrats hold together their slim majority in the House, and all 50 Democratic senators sign on to such a package, it might happen.
The “ifs” just described are major obstacles to such an event, but the The Hill story focused on yet another “if”, and that's the position of the non-partisan Senate Parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, who once worked for the government as an immigration lawyer. She has to rule that including the subject under consideration must significantly impact the budget, or the motion is ruled out of order.
She has made such rulings before. She thwarted a GOP effort, according to The Hill, to include the repeal of Obamacare in such a bill; similarly, she has ruled, contrary to Democratic wishes, that the $15/hour minimum wage could not be in a reconciliation bill. We wrote earlier of her potential power in this connection.
I suspect that there will be a reconciliation bill, perhaps only a shadow of the president’s wished-for total of $3.5 trillion in various social programs, but a single senator, or four members of the House could block it. We know that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has strong objections to the size of the package; given that he comes from a state that migrants shun, he might also object to an amnesty component to such a bill (though he has a career grade of D from Numbers USA).
My continuing worry is that the EB-5 (immigrant investor) program, beloved by Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), might be revived in such a bill, but the prospect of a hurried — and huge — amnesty being included is a much larger concern.