Dems reconsider tweaking filibuster as immigration, voting rights plans get stonewalled

It was a week of setbacks for the Biden agenda and Democrats in control of Congress. A key piece of immigration reform hit a wall in the Senate, and voting rights bills have stalled. Frustrated Democrats intensified talks of changing the 60-vote filibuster Friday. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It was a week of setbacks for the Biden agenda and for Democrats in control of Congress.

    A key piece of immigration reform hit a wall in the Senate, and voting rights bills have stalled. Frustrated Democrats today intensified talks of changing the 60-vote filibuster.

    Lisa Desjardins has been talking with some key figures involved, and she joins me now.

    So, hello, Lisa.

    You and I talked last evening about immigration, where it stood, but then, shortly after that, we learned that the Democratic hopes for immigration reform have hit a big wall. Tell us about it.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    First, a quick reminder that Democrats have 50 votes in the Senate, a Senate which usually requires 60 votes to get past a filibuster, which can block almost any piece of legislation to do that.

    To get past that, they're trying to use a budget reconciliation process to pass many pieces of the Biden bind agenda. And one of them is what you just mentioned, immigration reform.

    But it turned — last night, we have learned that their plan is not going to pass muster for this budgetary process. Let's remind people exactly what that plan was, quickly. First of all, Democrats were proposing parole. That would be a status that could not lead to a path to citizenship, but would give a legalized status to some six or seven million people in this country right now who are undocumented.

    And, last night, we did play the voices from interviews that our producer Saher Khan has done with some DACA recipients and TPS, temporary protected status, recipients. Those voices are important. And they have been listening to the words especially of the Senate parliamentarian.

    It is the Senate parliamentarian who decided whether or not those proposals were going to fit this budgetary reconciliation muster. Do they have enough of a budgetary effect?

    Here's what Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian wrote, according to e-mail provided to me by some sources.

    She said: "These are substantial policy changes with lasting effects, just like those we previously considered from Democrats. And those effects outweigh the budgetary impact."

    Essentially, they're saying this is more of a policy change. It's not a budgetary change. As you can imagine, Democrats very distressed about this, upset, including some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

    Three of those members wrote this today in response, saying that Democrats have to do everything they can to get to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, even if that means disregarding the Senate parliamentarian. So that leads to this question.

    Can Democrats overrule the parliamentarian yesterday? Yes, Judy, they can. But, politically, there is not the sense that they would do that. There's not 50 votes to do that. So this led us to talk to those undocumented — those DACA recipients and others today for their reaction to this news.

    And I want to go to a one of those folks that we talked to, Daishi Tanaka, who told us what his reaction was today.

  • Daishi Miguel Tanaka, DACA Recipient:

    As someone who has DACA and has been — consistently been played with political football on my future to stay in this country, and with the impending fear of courts ruling over DACA program, I think I wanted some permanency.

    And the fact that there's no relief gives me a lot of stress and anxiety for what is about to come.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Stress for him, but relief for conservatives, who were worried that a status for undocumented immigrants could make things at the borders — at the border worse.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And so, Lisa, another big issue hanging in the balance, voting rights.

    Lack of progress on this seems to be intensifying discussion around how to get around the Senate rule of the filibuster. Tell us where things stand on that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    We will talk about this more in the future, Judy.

    But, quickly, I want to go over what proposals I know Democrats are seriously considering to get around the filibuster, first, the idea of enforcing the current rules that they have, especially forcing senators to actually talk during a filibuster, limiting them to the current rule, which is two speeches each. That could last days, weeks, months, but Democrats say, maybe we need to do that.

    The other option that they're considering is switching the filibuster from 60 votes to end the filibuster to 41 in order to keep it going. These are taking on — these talks are very real, including with Senator Joe Manchin.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we know you're going to continue to follow that, even as Congress is getting ready to go home for the holiday.

    Lisa Desjardins, we love the Christmas tree. Thank you.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Thank you.

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