Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key moderate, on Wednesday said he supports including immigration provisions in a budget reconciliation bill, easing the path toward resolution on an issue that threatened to divide Democrats.
Asked by a reporter how he felt about the immigration provisions in the bill, Manchin replied, "I'm fine."
"I'm a 2013 immigration supporter. You can look at the 2013 bill and I thought that was a great bill. If we had that bill then, we wouldn't have the problems we'd have today," he said, referring to a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but was never taken up by the House.
As the most conservative Senate Democrat, Manchin's support is critical to inclusion of any provision that ends up in the reconciliation bill.
Democrats will need unanimous support from their Senate caucus to pass any reconciliation bill.
While a budget reconciliation bill would not include immigration reform per se, the current Democratic proposal includes funding to grant a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
The proposal, as currently funded, would include undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors, beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program, essential workers, and immigrant farmworkers.
While many of those categories overlap, the budget bill could ultimately regularize the status of up to 10 million people.
Still, the Senate parliamentarian has yet to rule whether funding for immigration regularizations has enough budgetary impact to warrant inclusion in a reconciliation bill.
"The big question is what happens with the parliamentarian, but we have good precedent on the parliamentarian ruling in the past to include immigration provisions, we think that bodes very well," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) on a call with reporters Wednesday.
Immigration advocates on the left and right are calling on Democrats to use reconciliation to override any possibility of Republicans blocking the legalization of undocumented immigrants.
Opening a pathway to citizenship for millions of people would mark the first time in 35 years that Congress dictates a liberalization of immigration policy, after decades of increasing border security and immigration enforcement.
Manchin 'open' to $3.5 trillion Democratic budget deal
Key centrist Tester will vote to proceed to $3.5T budget deal
The broad approach to immigration in reconciliation seems to have White House support, in addition to support from progressives and key moderates in both chambers.
Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a proponent of immigration reform, said President Biden expressed support for including immigration in the reconciliation package at his meeting with Democratic senators Wednesday.
"There's certainly a line item, and now the committee process will begin to flesh out the specifics within the committee jurisdictions," said Padilla, who said the immigration provisions should be "as inclusive as possible."