The Senate parliamentarian on Thursday rejected Democrats’ third attempt to include immigration in President Joe Biden’s economic bill, delivering a major blow to Democrats who have repeatedly sought to include immigration provisions in the Build Back Better bill.
It’s the latest hit to the Biden administration’s immigration agenda and likely marks the end of the road for providing protections to millions of undocumented immigrants through the budget process known as reconciliation, which would not require GOP votes.
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough advises the chamber on how its rules, protocols and precedents should be applied as Democrats and the White House figure out what they can include in the massive spending bill.
Democratic aides had pushed for the third attempt, dubbed “Plan C,” before MacDonough and her staff weeks ago after she struck down two other attempts to include more extensive immigration provisions in the bill.
The provisions Democrats had argued for were the same ones included in the House-passed version of the economic bill, which would provide temporary protection from deportation and work permits to undocumented immigrants who entered the US prior to January 2011 and meet a certain set of criteria. About 6.5 million people would qualify, according to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.
The proposed immigration provisions fell short of what Democrats had hoped for — a pathway to citizenship — but would still have provided some reprieve to millions of immigrants.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters he was “disappointed” the Senate parliamentarian’s ruling.
“We’re considering what options remain,” he said, but added he doesn’t think there’s a “Plan D” for Democrats right now.
Democrats had seized on reconciliation to pass the immigration provisions because it would have allowed them to do so without Republican votes. Despite multiple attempts to pass immigration overhauls in recent years, efforts have fallen short.
Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates have been bracing for the ruling, waiting to see whether the parliamentarian would reject it as a whole or certain aspects of it, leaving room for additional modifications.
Reconciliation, however, has a strict set of rules, and provisions have to undergo a review of whether they have an impact on the budget and not just an “incidental” one.
Kerri Talbot, deputy executive director at the Immigration Hub, previously told reporters that another “Byrd bath” is expected in the event that adjustments have to be made to the Democrats’ immigration plan, stressing that it’s a process.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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