Senate parliamentarian rejects Democrats' immigration amnesty provisions in Build Back Better Act

Democratic leaders say they disagree with the parliamentarian's decision

Published: December 17, 2021 10:53am

Updated: December 18, 2021 10:23am

Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough late Thursday rejected Democrats' immigration amnesty provisions in President Biden's multi-trillion Build Back Better Act, resulting in the party's Capitol Hill leaders vowing to purse other ways to provide legal protections for illegal immigrants. 

"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," Senate Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement on Thursday evening.
"Throughout the entire reconciliation process, we have worked to ensure that immigration reform was not treated as an afterthought. The majority of Americans support our efforts to provide legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States because it would raise wages, create good-paying jobs, enrich our economy, and improve the lives of all Americans," he also said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised that she and fellow Democrats would move forward on offering a path to citizennship for illegal immigrants.

"The ruling by the Senate parliamentarian is highly disappointing," she said. "Achieving legal protections for undocumented immigrants in the Build Back Better Act has long been a key priority for congressional Democrats and for the American people – and we will continue to look at every possible option to do so.

"Immigrants make America more American: enriching our nation, powering our economy and bringing their patriotism, bravery and determination to succeed to our shores. The majority of the American people support Democrats’ work to fix our broken immigration system and provide legal status for undocumented immigrants."

Pelosi also said House Democrats will continue to work with President Biden and Senate Democrats to secure the legal protections that immigrants have "earned and need.”

Republicans opposed the addition of immigration provisions to the Democrats' budget reconciliation bill, which they're trying to pass without GOP votes in the 50-50 Senate. Budget reconciliation bills are not subject to the legislative filibuster. 

"This guidance confirms, once again, what everyone already knew -- that giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants isn't a budgetary matter appropriate for reconciliation," said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The parliamentarian’s ruling is just an affirmation of the obvious.

"Trying to shoehorn radical immigration policy provisions into reconciliation has always been about avoiding bipartisan negotiation and compromise. Passing these measures on a party-line vote would set a terrible precedent and further erode the valuable role of the Senate as a legislative body that requires debate, consultation, and compromise in order to enact major policy proposals into law."

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