Democrats saw their troubled $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill take another body blow on Wednesday from a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian regarding a provision of the bill seeking to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants living inside the U.S.
The massive spending bill will never get off the ground in the Senate unless the budget reconciliation process can pass it. That would allow Democrats to bypass the filibuster rule that requires standard legislation to receive 60 affirmative votes to move to a final floor vote. With no Republican support, the Democrats will need all 50 Democratic senators and the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to pass the behemoth spending package.
However, to qualify for the budget reconciliation process, provisions of the bill must be approved by the Senate parliamentarian as things adequately considered to be budgetary.
On Wednesday, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough told Democrat senators that their attempt to update immigration status by legislation fails to qualify as budgetary. Democrats had planned to change the date on the U.S. immigration registry, currently set at 1972. The registry date allows immigrants who have lived inside the country while showing “good moral character” to become permanent legal residents, even if they initially entered the country illegally.
Changing the registry date to a much more recent date was the second way Democrats have tried to include amnesty in the reconciliation bill. The parliamentarian also rejected the first attempt. MacDonough was reported to have previously told Democrats that amnesty in any form would be very difficult to legitimately include in a budget bill, as the topic would necessarily include a “weighty policy change.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said the ruling is a disappointment while acknowledging that any remaining options for including amnesty in the spending bill are “limited.”
Progressive activists and amnesty groups have protested the decision and have demanded that Vice President Kamala Harris overrule the parliamentarian in her constitutional role of president of the Senate.