The House Judiciary Committee late Monday approved the immigration language for the upcoming reconciliation bill being used for the Democrats' $3.5 trillion spending plan, which the party hopes to approve without any Republican support.
The proposal advanced shortly before midnight gives shape to what had previously been an abstract push to grant a pathway to citizenship to millions of immigrants who are either undocumented or cannot currently apply for permanent status.
Under the proposal, which passed on a 25-19 party line vote, an estimated 8 million undocumented Dreamers who arrived in the United States as minors, beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program and undocumented essential workers will be allowed to apply for permanent residency.
Currently, people without legal status or in temporary humanitarian programs like TPS are not allowed to apply to change their immigration status.
Foreign nationals who receive permanent resident status, also known as a green card, become eligible to apply for citizenship after a period of time that can range from three to five years.
The Democratic proposal, submitted by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerMore than 200 women, transgender inmates to be transferred from Rikers Island Alabama using COVID funds to build new prisons — is that Biden's vision? Alabama clears plan to use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons MORE (D-N.Y.), would allow its beneficiaries to apply for permanent residency, provided they pass background checks, pay $1,500 on top of any other statutory fees to receive a green card and fulfill certain presence requirements, depending on their current status.
The bill also includes language on reclaiming unused visas, a procedure that could allow the Biden administration to speed up traditional legal immigration channels while granting the 8 million new legal permanent residencies.
The language on the House side offers a glimpse into details of the language Democrats hope to get approved by the Senate parliamentarian in an effort to fit immigration provisions into a reconciliation bill.
For that to happen, the provisions must be ruled by the parliamentarian to have a direct fiscal effect.
Republicans attacked — among many other aspects of the legislation — its budgetary impact.
The 14-hour session of the Judiciary Committee underscored the deep divisions between the parties, and the willingness of both sides to stick to their message.
"They're not really engaging in any debate. I think only two people have spoken, besides the chair. And so they've displayed amazing discipline," said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) near the end of the long night.
"They just say no, they oppose the amendment basically and then away we go. This is not what we call a reasoned debate. They stack the cards, they're the majority, this is the way they want to play it," added Biggs.
Democrats, meanwhile, expressed frustration over Republican attempts to bait them into debates on a whole array of issues, sometimes directly related to the immigration provisions, sometimes not.
"The way they structured the amendments and the way they were addressing them, they're clearly not designed to get any, any Democrats to vote with them," said Rep. Lou CorreaJose (Lou) Luis CorreaTop Latino group endorses Padilla for full Senate term Democrats weigh changes to drug pricing measure to win over moderates Democrats grasping at straws on immigration MORE (D-Calif.).
"I think they throw the kitchen sink at this thing, they talked about this, they talked about immigrants not integrating into America, they talked about gun violence, they talked about drunk drivers, you know, they're throwing everything to see what sticks," added Correa.
Still, the one-sided debate showcased Republican attack lines for 2022's midterms, and a Democratic defense that the party hopes will rest on legislative accomplishments.
"The Democratic strategy has been, 'don't take the bait. This is not about immigration. This is about economics in the reconciliation package, and how this topic of Dreamers, TPS, essential workers are part of the economic picture in the U.S.,' " said Correa.
— Updated at 10:08 a.m.