The non-partisan gatekeeper of the U.S. Senate has ruled that the Democrat attempt to insert amnesty for illegal immigrants into the Build Back Better bill violates parliamentary procedure. Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough says because Democrats are using the complicated and rule-laden reconciliation process, the scope of the legislation is far more constrained than a normal piece of legislation.
The reconciliation process, first formulated in the 1970s in response to the revelations of the Watergate Scandal, allows certain types of budget bills to go through the Senate without facing the 60-vote filibuster. Because Republicans would certainly filibuster this budget bill, Democrats have had no choice but to use the process.
But given its extreme power relative to normal Senate bills, its provisions are subject to the approval or disapproval of the parliamentarian, the Senate’s nonpartisan referee. While the reconciliation process is being used, all provisions must satisfy the current parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, as being within the original budget-related scope of the process.
Specifically, Democrats’ budget bill is subject to the “Byrd rule,” named after the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W. Va.), which says that all provisions in reconciliation must have a “more than merely incidental effect” on federal spending and revenue; The rule was first proposed and passed to weaken the process, which had increasingly started being used for non-budget related provisions.
Since they began work on the budget bill, Democrats have made clear that they have the intention of trying to put comprehensive immigration reform into the bill.
The first two immigration plans Democrats proposed, which would have given millions of illegal aliens amnesty for entering the country against federal law, were rejected by MacDonough under the Byrd rule.
Now, MacDonough has dealt another blow to Democrats, rejecting their third, significantly-weaker immigration plan.
This third plan, called “plan C” by Democratic proponents, would have given 6–7 million illegal aliens five-year work and travel permits, essentially a form of temporary amnesty. Just this year alone, over 2 million have crossed illegally into the United States and released into communities.
Democratic supporters of the plan like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have for weeks argued for the provision with the parliamentarian, but ultimately Democrats were unable to sway the former immigration attorney-turned-parliamentarian.
When Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, one of the strongest supporters of amnesty in the budget, was asked whether Democrats had a “plan D” in the wake of this decision, he responded, “Not at this point.”
Outside of Capitol Hill, the decision also ruffled feathers with some private immigration organizations.
Mike Fernandez, co-chair of the American Business Immigration Coalition, advocates for unchecked immigration in order to “grow jobs, strengthen our economy, and benefit all American families.” The organization is run by several major business moguls, whose bottom line grows with the increased labor supply furnished by immigration.
“It’s time for Senate leaders to retake control of the legislative process,” Fernandez said, calling on Senate Democrats to ignore the parliamentarian’s ruling. “The Senate has received some bad advice that needs to be disregarded.”
Others were far happier with the decision.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a nonpartisan group that emphasizes the economic and social dangers of unchecked immigration, applauded the parliamentarian.
“[FAIR] applauds Ms. MacDonough for her integrity and ensuring that longstanding rules of the Senate were not subverted to achieve partisan political ends,” wrote Matthew Tragessor, FAIR’s communications manager.
“Sadly, Senate Democrats, who hold the majority in that body solely because Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote, have made repeated attempts to use budget reconciliation to make an end run around normal legislative procedures,” FAIR’s press release continued. “We hope that this, her third rejection of these tactics, will finally put an end to their efforts to abuse the process in order to reward illegal aliens.”
Some Democrats, including progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), have argued that the Senate should use the so-called “nuclear option,” a rarely-used process that allows the majority party to change Senate rules through a simple majority vote, to override the parliamentarian.
The failure of the bill to pass before the Christmas break means President Joe Biden and Democrats have suffered their worst-yet legislative defeat. This while controlling the White House and Congress.
Polls continue to show the Biden administration one of the most unpopular in history. Republicans now hold a massive 10-point lead in the 2022 mid-term elections and President Trump is now outpolling Biden in a hypothetical 2024 matchup.