Reconciliation Cannot Be Used To Enact Immigration Reform
Since it passed the Senate last week, there's been a great deal of discussion in the blogosphere and inside the beltway about whether the House can be forced to consider the Senate-passed bill.
Most of that discussion has been about using a discharge petition, a procedure that enables a majority of House members to force a bill out of committee to the floor for a vote. As quickly as that started to be mentioned, that process was dismissed. It's possible but extremely unlikely.
A supposed second option that started to get some attention at the end of last week -- using the reconciliation procedures of the Congressional Budget Act -- also needs to be quickly dismissed. In fact, reconciliation is even a less likely route for immigration reform in the House than a discharge petition.
1. Reconciliation can only happen pursuant to instructions included in a budget resolution conference report adopted by Congress. The House and Senate have passed their own versions of a fiscal 2014 budget resolution, but Republicans in the House so far are refusing to go to conference with the Senate and the Senate GOP so far has blocked every attempt Democrats have made to appoint conferees. No conference means no conference report, no conference report means no reconciliation and no reconciliation means it's not available for immigration reform.
2. Even though the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Senate-passed immigration reform bill will reduce the deficit by $197 billion between 2014 and 2023, most of the bill has nothing to do with the budget. As a result, including it in a reconciliation bill, that is, the legislation that is produced pursuant to the reconciliation instructions in a budget resolution conference report, would trigger the Byrd Rule in the Senate and, therefore, would likely be subject to a point of order and removed.
3. The real value of reconciliation is in the Senate because a reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered. But the Senate isn't the problem with immigration reform: the House is the one that is refusing to take up the Senate-passed bill. The same people in the House who are making enactment of immigration reform difficult would be the ones in charge of the House reconciliation process and there's no way to force them to include what the Senate adopted.