A bid by Democrats to include 8 million green cards as part of their $3.5 trillion spending bill was just killed by the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough - a 'significant blow' to Democrats' path-to-citizenship scheme, according to NBC News.
Since Democrats hold such a narrow margin in the Senate, they're ram their massive spending package through Congress via a reconciliation, which requires the simple majority they barely hold - and not one vote less.
According to guidance issued by MacDonough and obtained by The Hill, "the Democratic plan doesn't meet the strict rules on what can be in the spending bill, calling the plan "by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.""
"The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation," she wrote in her ruling. If Democrats can't convince her to change her mind, which we don't imagine happening, their immigration plan will be dead in the water for the time being.
"Changing the law to clear the way to LPR [lawful permanent resident] status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact," she added.
Democratic leaders and immigration activists say this is only the first bite at the apple and they'll go back to the parliamentarian to try again to fit this in.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) September 20, 2021
If it doesn't happen in reconciliation, there is no Plan B.
There aren't 60 Senate votes.https://t.co/5JAI5Fuu2m
Democrats, faced with having to find 8 million future Democrats elsewhere, were crestfallen.
"We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues. Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a statement.
Democrats pitched MacDonough earlier this month on their plan to use the $3.5 trillion spending bill to provide 8 million green cards for four groups of immigrants: "Dreamers," temporary protected status (TPS) holders, agricultural workers and essential workers. Getting legal permanent resident status allows an individual to eventually apply for citizenship if they can meet other qualifications.But because Democrats are using reconciliation to pass the spending bill without GOP support, there are strict requirements for what can be included. One of the requirements is that any provision in the bill has to impact the federal government's spending or revenues and that the impact can't be "merely incidental" to nonbudgetary intentions.
But MacDonough, in her written guidance to senators, wrote that granting LPR status has “no federal fiscal equivalent.” -The Hill
Down but not out
Sen. Judiciary Chairman Dick Durban (D-IL) and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA), who oversees the committee's immigration subpanel, reassured immigrants that "the fight for immigration reform will continue."
The spending bill is Democrats' best shot at getting immigration reform to President Biden's desk. Though the House previously passed two smaller bills, Senate Democrats have been unable to come up with a plan that could get the 10 GOP votes needed to break a filibuster in the Senate. Durbin has been leading bipartisan talks, but they have been slow going, and Democrats don't have the total unity they need to nix the filibuster. -The Hill
Republicans praised MacDonough's decision.
"The Parliamentarian’s guidance reinforces long held traditions of the Senate that major policy changes should be done collaboratively and not through the reconciliation process. This decision reinforces the fact that the Senate is truly different than the House," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a Sunday statement.
"Immigration is way outside the bounds of what ought to be included," said Sen. John Thune (R-SD) in a statement to The Hill.
As we noted on Sunday, losing their immigration plan is just the latest turbulence surrounding the Democrats' legislative hurdles - with top Dems conceding that the $3.5 trillion package would likely be smaller in size and drag into October. To top it off, they're also got the debt ceiling to address before the end of the month, as well as progressive Democrats who refuse to play ball on the big package unless the House also gets their $550B infrastructure bill to Biden's desk for a signature.