Senate Democrats who hoped to use their $3.5 trillion grab bag of spending projects to dole out 8 million green cards to illegal immigrants were handed a major defeat Sunday.
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the nonpartisan arbiter of the body’s rules, declared that Democrats who want to use the budget reconciliation process to ram the proposal home with zero Republican support cannot do so.
The “policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” MacDonough wrote, according to The New York Times.
She called the Democrats’ plan “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy,” according to The Hill.
MacDonough’s opinions are not binding, but multiple Democrats have said they would not go against her ruling.
The Times reported that the cost of the immigration changes that were proposed was more than $139 billion over 10 years, according to preliminary figures from the Congressional Budget Office.
The parliamentarian said the Democratic plan had “no federal fiscal equivalent.”
The proposal is a “tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact,” MacDonough said, according to the Times.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said the ruling was a victory for good government.
Do you agree with the Senate parliamentarian’s decision?
“Having worked on several comprehensive immigration reform bills, I believe that using the reconciliation process to provide legal status to illegal immigrants would be a disaster,” he said in a series of tweets Sunday night. “It would have led to an increased run on the border — beyond the chaos we already have there today.”
“It would be a terrible idea to provide legal status before we secure the border and reform the immigration process which is currently being abused.
“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.”
It would be a terrible idea to provide legal status before we secure the border and reform the immigration process which is currently being abused.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) September 20, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said Democrats have a Plan B ready as a way to try to salvage something from their work.
“We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” the New York Democrat said in a statement. “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”
We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues.
We will continue fighting to pursue the best path forward to grant them the ability to obtain lawful status.
My statement: pic.twitter.com/5VZjx0D6JT
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 20, 2021
MacDonough had earlier played a role in Democrats’ proposals by rejecting a plan to tack a $15 national minimum wage onto a coronavirus relief bill.
Some urged Senate Democrats to reject the parliamentarian’s ruling.
We can’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to do the right thing. https://t.co/r1T7T7uQIP
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 20, 2021
Can anyone explain to me why we are passively giving Elizabeth MacDonough who has not won a single vote more power than any sitting Senator or House member to kill the $15 wage and common sense immigration policy? Overrule her. https://t.co/QvAqZJyeWU
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) September 20, 2021
The Senate should not allow arcane procedural rules to block real actions to help real people. Immigration reform to protect DREAMers, TPS recipients and essential workers is critical for our economy and our future.
— Rep. Val Demings (@RepValDemings) September 20, 2021
Greisa Martinez Rosas, director of United We Dream Action, called McDonough an “unelected adviser” and said congressional Democrats “hold all the power to do the right thing,” according to the Times.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the immigration component of the plan is all but dead.
“Tonight’s ruling confirms that principle. Democrats will not be able to stuff their most radical amnesty proposals into the reckless taxing and spending spree they are assembling behind closed doors,” the Kentucky Republican said, according to The Washington Times.