It “remains to be seen” if a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people originally promised such under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, can be included in the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, President Biden said.
The commander-in-chief made the comments just before walking into the White House Sunday while returning from a weekend in Wilmington, Del., after being asked by a pool reporter whether a pathway for citizenship needed to be included in budget reconciliation, which would be rammed through Congress with no GOP support.
“There must be a pathway to citizenship,” he responded, “whether it needs to be in [reconciliation] remains to be seen.”
Democrats and immigrant advocates have felt a newfound urgency to address the legal status of Dreamers in recent weeks, following a federal judge in Texas ruling earlier this month that the program was unlawful.
The judge also blocked new applicants, leaving those who are still waiting to hear back from the program in limbo.
It was not originally clear if addressing the DACA program, passed in 2012 to give work permits to and protect from deportation people brought illegally to the US as minors, would be possible through Democrats’ reconciliation deal.
Budget reconciliation allows the majority party to bypass the legislative filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, though Vice President Kamala Harris, as Senate president, has a tie-breaking vote. Still, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.
Reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass spending for critical projects, but the process cannot be used to change or create laws.
Biden split his infrastructure package, a centerpiece of his post-COVID agenda, into two for Congress to pass.
The first, the “American Jobs Plan,” focused on infrastructure, while the second, the “American Families Plan,” is aimed at funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.
Republicans took issue with the second package, which they argue stretches the definition of infrastructure.
Biden announced the $1.2 trillion deal earlier this month with the bipartisan group on hard infrastructure spending, valued at a little more than half of the original $2.3 trillion proposal.
That agreement, which is still up in the air as it has not yet been written or signed, could still fall through, leaving Democrats almost certain to return to the $2.3 trillion partisan reconciliation bill or something like it.
House Democrats have continued the process of writing the partisan legislation in the event that the Senate deal falls through.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has thrown cold water on the idea of the House passing the compromise package if the Senate did not take up the “Families Plan” legislation, which would only pass through reconciliation.
Democrats said they had reached a $3.5 trillion budget agreement last week, though it will be up to the Senate parliamentarian to decide.
The Senate parliamentarian acts as a judge of the rules, and acts as a nonpartisan arbiter of procedural actions in the chamber.
The current parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, gained attention earlier this year when she rejected Democrats’ request to add a $15 minimum wage in their $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.