With a good bit of arm twisting and a bit of fanfare this week, the House passed in a 220-212 party-line vote a $3.5 trillion budget resolution and advanced a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in tandem. According to CNBC, the vote allows Democrats to write and approve a massive spending package without Republicans and puts the Senate-passed infrastructure plan on a path to final passage in the House.
After the vote, the Democrats led by Representative Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey said their deal with party leaders “does what we set out to do: secure a standalone vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, send it to the President’s desk, and then separately consider the reconciliation package.”
A procedure called “budget reconciliation” will be used by senate Democrats to pass the budget bill. Reconciliation allows certain tax, spending and debt limitation bills to be passed without being subject to filibuster and need only require a simple majority. Given an evenly split Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris being the swing vote, it is quite possible Democrats will get to run the boards when it comes to what ultimately goes into the budget bill.
In the past, budget reconciliation has only been used to address “mandatory” entitlement spending. However, there is nothing barring Democrats from using budget reconciliation on discretionary spending.
So how could a spending bill be bad for U.S. tech workers? On the very day the budget resolution was passed, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, (D-IL) demanded that the employment based green card backlog be addressed as part of the reconciliation package.
In a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Charles Shumer that was obviously prepared before the vote, Krishnamoorthi along with Representatives Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Deborah K. Ross (D-NC) stated:
The reconciliation package is likely the final opportunity to pass any Democratic immigration priorities for the foreseeable future. For over a decade, there has been strong bipartisan support for helping individuals stuck in the green card backlog, as recently demonstrated by the resounding 365-65 vote to pass the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044/S.386) in the House last Congress. Every comprehensive immigration reform effort over the past 20 years – as well as President Biden’s immigration bill – has included the concept of clearing the green card backlog. Failure to address the backlog, while taking the opportunity of reconciliation to pass other immigration priorities, would be a tragic oversight with lasting repercussions for impacted individuals and the American economy at large. We simply cannot allow this opportunity to go to waste.
What they failed to state was the support of H.R. 1044 enjoyed in the House was largely due to a ploy known as “suspension of the rules.” And of course, it was defeated in the Senate despite several underhanded ploys to pass it.
Be it as it may, the letter is just one example of how the America Last crowd is preparing to use reconciliation to further their agenda. Who knows what other amendments have already been drawn up? Much like our fight to stop H.R. 1044/S. 386, we again must be prepared to step into the breach and fight any attempts to disadvantage U.S. tech workers.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be hard at work monitoring the situation. On a positive note, there are limitations to what can be introduced into a spending bill via budget reconciliation. As example, the Senate Parliamentarian can, using discretion, remove inappropriate items. But do we want to leave something so important and potentially impactful to chance? Moreover, The Parliamentarian can be overruled and has been in the past.
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Lastly, I want to take a moment to congratulate Robert Heath for his anti-discrimination win against Ameritch Global. Ameritech Global settled his claim with the Department of Justice on August 17, 2021, paid a fine of $10,000 and promised to “revise its policies and procedures and train relevant employees and agents on the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.”
Robert has been doing yeoman’s work acting as his own pro-se attorney going after companies that violate the rules with regard to discrimination based on citizenship and national origin. Imagine if you would, hundreds of tech workers doing the same as Robert? Federal, state, and local agencies are there to support our claims of discrimination against citizens of the United States and we need to all follow Robert’s example and litigate these abuses out of existence.