Jordain Carney, The Hill, December 17, 2021
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has rejected the third and most recent plan from Democrats for including immigration reform in the Build Back Better bill, telling senators that it doesn’t meet the rules for what can be included in a budget measure bypassing the Senate’s filibuster.
The guidance is the latest setback for Democrats’ hopes of including immigration reform in the spending bill. MacDonough had previously rejected two plans from Democrats that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants.
The third plan stopped short of that, aggravating some activists and progressives. It would have granted 6.5 million foreign nationals a temporary parole status that would give them five-year work and travel permits.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said he was “disappointed” and that Democrats are “considering what options are available.”
What comes next isn’t clear. Durbin huddled with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who has been involved in the immigration discussions, shortly after news of MacDonough’s ruling broke.
“We strongly disagree with the Senate parliamentarian’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act,” they said in a joint statement with Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).
Asked if there was a “Plan D,” Durbin told reporters: “Not at this point.”
The ruling isn’t binding and immediately fueled calls for Democrats to try to sidestep the parliamentarian’s guidance.
“It’s time for Senate leaders to retake control of the legislative process. … The Senate has received some bad advice that needs to be disregarded,” said American Business Immigration Coalition co-chair Mike Fernandez.
Some Democrats, including Durbin, support trying to formally overrule MacDonough. But that would require 50 votes and would ultimately fall short given opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).