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Tipsheet

Senate Parliamentarian Delivers Democrats Bad News on $3.5 Trillion Spending Package

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Democrats were dealt a “crushing blow” to plans for their $3.5 trillion spending package on Sunday, when the Senate parliamentarian rejected a proposal to include a path to U.S. citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

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According to the Associated Press, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough told senators in a memo that “under Senate rules, provisions are not allowed in such bills if their budget effect is ‘merely incidental’ to their overall policy impact.” 

The language in the Democrats’ spending plan is “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy,” she said.

MacDonough cited a CBO estimate that Democrats’ proposals would increase federal deficits by $140 billion over the coming decade. That is largely because of federal benefits the immigrants would qualify for.

But that fiscal impact, wrote MacDonough, was overshadowed by improvements the Democratic effort would make for immigrants’ lives.

“Many undocumented persons live and work in the shadows of our society out of fear of deportation,” she said. Permanent legal status would grant them “freedom to work, freedom to travel, freedom to live openly in our society in any state in the nation, and to reunite with their families and it would make them eligible, in time, to apply for citizenship — things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent.”

That, she wrote, “is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.” (AP)

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was “deeply disappointed in this decision.”

“Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days,” the New York Democrat wrote in a statement. 

While Republicans cheered the decision, progressive Democrats called on President Biden to ignore her.

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The White House, while "disappointed" by the parliamentarian's decision, said it expects Senate Democrats to come up with "alternative proposals," as Schumer already promised to do. 

"The President has made very clear that he supports efforts by Congress to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and is grateful to Congressional leadership for all of the work they are doing to make this a reality," a White House spokesperson told Fox News. "The Parliamentarian’s ruling is deeply disappointing but we fully expect our partners in the Senate to come back with alternative proposals for the Parliamentarian to consider."

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