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Senate parliamentarian says Democrats cannot include immigration reform in reconciliation package

Senate Democrats want to include in their budget reconciliation package green cards for 8 million illegal immigrants.

Updated: September 20, 2021 - 9:01am

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled against a plan from Democratic lawmakers that would include 8 million green cards going to illegal immigrants as part of their $3.5 trillion spending bill. 

The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, made her ruling Sunday, effectively ending the Democrats' plan to include immigration reform in what has been billed as a spending package. 

"The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation," she wrote in the ruling, making reference to the budget process Democrats are attempting to use with the legislation so as to avoid the Senate filibuster.

MacDonough added that the immigration proposal is "by any standard a broad, new immigration policy," highlighting precisely why it cannot be included in a spending bill.

Democrats are attempting to use reconciliation to pass the spending bill, meaning they will be able to do it without any Republican support. 

For such legislation to be considered under the reconciliation process, there are strict requirements for what can be included, one being all facets of the bill must impact the federal government's spending or revenues.

MacDonough, in her guidance to Democrats, ruled their immigration proposal has "no federal fiscal equivalent."

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer responded: "We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues. Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days."

In a statement released Sunday, South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said: "The parliamentarian's guidance reinforces long held traditions of the Senate that major policy changes should be done collaboratively and not through the reconciliation process. This decision reinforces the fact that the Senate is truly different than the House."

In early 2021, MacDonough ruled against Senate Democrats' plan to include a $15 minimum wage requirement in a coronavirus aid plan. As it did then, her dismissal of Democrat policy will likely cause a flurry of renewed calls to abolish the legislative filibuster, allowing the party in power to pass high priority agenda items with no opposition support.

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