The Senate Parliamentarian’s ruling comes as Democratic leaders will need to recruit every vote in Congress from their party to approve President Joe Biden’s massive 10-year social spending bill, with moderate senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema objecting to the $3.5 trillion price tag, citing inflation concerns.
Senate Democrats were blocked from incorporating immigration provisions in their planned $3.5 trillion party-line bill on Sunday. The proposed social spending bill would channel funds into social safety net, environment and other programmes, with tax increases on the rich and corporations largely financing the initiatives.
The Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled against the measure, stating, according to NPR, that such an immigration policy change as proposed by the Democrats and President Joe Biden would “far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.”
Underscoring the sweeping changes envisaged to immigrants’ lives, MacDonough said the language “is by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.”
Democrats had insisted that the reform, aimed to offer a path to citizenship for millions, including so-called Dreamer immigrants, brought to the US as children and protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, would have direct budgetary impact. This, they argued, called for the issue to be included in a budget reconciliation bill. The latter allows Democrats to pass legislation without Republican votes on a simple majority vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
The measures would thus be shielded from GOP bill-killing filibusters. However, now the ruling leaves the immigration reform requiring 60 Senate votes in the evenly split 50-50 Senate. Democrats and their allies vowed to overcome this roadblock and offer alternative approaches to MacDonough.
“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-N.Y., in a written statement.
White House spokesperson Vedant Patel deplored Sunday’s ruling as “deeply disappointing,” but added, “We fully expect our partners in the Senate to come back with alternative immigration-related proposals for the parliamentarian to consider.”
Republicans applauded the decision by the Senate’s parliamentarian. Senator Chuck Grassley, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, went on Twitter to praise the parliamentarian’s ruling, saying that “mass amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants isn’t a budgetary issue appropriate for reconciliation.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell similarly supported the thwarting of the Democrats’ attempt to “stuff their most radical amnesty proposals into the reckless taxing and spending spree they are assembling behind closed doors.”
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said that using the reconciliation process to “provide legal status to illegal immigrants would be a disaster”.
Earlier, in their reported arguments before MacDonough on September 10, Democrats claimed citizenship for 8 million immigrants would result in an $139 billion impact on the budget. Four categories would be considered for citizenship in line with the reform: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, those with Temporary Protected Status, farm workers and other essential workers. Democrats had also argued that the immigration reforms could inject $150 billion in spending into the American economy annually.