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Another Roadblock to Build Back Better Comes As Senate Parliamentarian Rejects Democrats' Immigration Proposal

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

It's been a busy and not particularly good day for President Joe Biden and his Build Back Better agenda. Not long after the White House released a statement from the president raising doubts about the future of the bill, news broke that the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, had rejected a third proposal from Senate Democrats to do with including immigration reform in the bill.


Democrats only have a shot at passing Biden's spending bill through the reconciliation process. While it only needs a simple majority to pass, it must also meet certain rules for what's included in the legislation, namely that it has to do with changes in spending or revenue. 

As Jordain Carney with The Hill reported:

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-IL) is cited throughout, who, when asked if there is a Plan D after MacDonough rejected three immigration proposals now, said "not at this point."

As Carney also wrote:

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. Robert 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."


Asked why MacDonough nixed their latest plan, Durbin indicated that they had hit the same roadblock. 

"Same reasoning, just too many rights extended," Durbin said, before declining to characterize MacDonough's guidance further.


When it comes to why MacDonough rejected the proposal, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) considers the answer an obvious one, which is to say it doesn't have anything to do with the budget. 

That may not stop Democrats, though. 


As Carney mentioned, and as I reported last month, many are all in favor of ignoring MacDonough. 

Why Senate Democrats would avoid such a practice isn't so much because of respecting the parliamentarian's recommendations and the institution, but rather because of the further chaos that would likely result. As Carney mentioned:

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.).

Advocates are instead urging Democrats to try to put someone in the chair that would ignore MacDonough's advice, though that wouldn't prevent Republicans from trying to win over one Democrat to strip out the plan as part of a chaotic floor process where any senator who wants to force a vote on a change to Biden's spending bill will be able to.

It hasn't been a good day overall for radical immigration proposals from Democrats. As Katie reported earlier on Thursday, "Those $450,000 Checks for Illegal Immigrants May Not Be Happening After All."


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