Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has rejected yet a third attempt by Democrats to push immigration reform through as a part of the Biden Administration‘s Build Back Better legislation.
MacDonough said late last week that the latest attempt at immigration reform can’t be passed as a component of the Build Back Better legislation; the proposal, as it is written, does not comply with certain rules set forth by the reconciliation process in Congress. The Democrats had pushed for a “framework” of the Build Back Better legislation as well as a measure that would allow for reconciliation once the bill made it to the Senate. However, MacDonough released a briefing that states the legislation cannot move forward with this proposal in place.
The legislation as it was written would protect immigrants from deportation for a period of five years. Plus, any immigrant who arrived in the United States prior to 2011 would be eligible for a five year work authorization. The proposal also provided for this work authorization to be renewable.
Democrats had set up a reconciliation on the bill in an effort to avoid a filibuster from opponents of the progressive legislation. However, according to MacDonough, the way the proposal is set up goes against rule set up in the reconciliation process; therefore, this piece of legislation will have to be removed from the Build Back Better bill before a vote.
One of the rules of reconciliation in Congress has to do with the idea that the legislation proposed must related directly to the federal budget. Ms. MacDonough said the bill’s immigration reform violated this part of the reconciliation process in that some immigrants would become eligible for green cards, and the federal government would not be able to turn down some immigrants if they met the standard of having been in the country prior to 2011.
MacDonough also related that the proposal covered the same population as previous proposals she rejected.
MacDonough wrote the following regarding her decision: “These are substantial policy changes with lasting effects, just like those we previously considered, and outweigh the budgetary impact.
The Congressional Budget Office also commented on the population the legislation would cover, saying that approximately 6.5 million illegal immigrants would receive protection from deportation as well as the five year work authorization. It is possible most of these individuals would also receive a green card.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) was one of the individuals who crafted the legislation as a chairman of the Judiciary Committee; he expressed “disappointment” that the legislation was rejected by the Senate parliamentarian. He also said the options for immigration reform are fast becoming fewer and fewer.
Durbin’s efforts have been a political hot topic since the Obama Administration. During his time in office, recognition was given to the “Dreamer,” those who came to the United States under the DACA program. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and it allowed these particular individuals to live and work in the United States without fear of deportation.
A Texas federal court ruled in summer 2021 that the DACA program from the Obama Administration is illegal; the case is currently in appellate courts, and may very likely make it to the Supreme Court before a final decision is rendered.
However, Ms. MacDonough’s ruling does not throw out all immigration reform included in the bill. Some parts of the proposal are intended to help immigrants dealing with a backlog in obtaining their green card; the proposals would allow for some immigrants to “jump the line” for their paperwork.
There are those who have called upon the Democrats in the Senate to simply ignore the ruling of the Parliamentarian and leave the proposal in place. However, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), commented on the matter: “Trying to shoehorn radical immigration policy provisions into reconciliation has always been about avoiding biparisan negotiation and compromise.”
Interestingly enough, the immigration reform policy is not the only proposal in the Build Back Better bill that the Parliamentarian found is inconsistent with Senate reconciliation rules. Other proposals included climate change legislation as well as a proposal to regulate drug prices in the commercial market.
However, the bill may be dead in the water regardless of any removal of troublesome proposals. Senator Joe Manchin told Bret Baier on Fox News that he is a definite “no” vote on the Build Back Better Act. On Sunday, Manchin said, “They continue to camouflage the real cost of this spending bill.”