Dec 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Parliamentarian rejects Dems' immigration provisions for 3rd time

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is seen in silhouette set by television lights.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addressed reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats got another "no" from the parliamentarian on Thursday for their latest plan to provide protections for undocumented immigrants in the $1.75 trillion "human" infrastructure bill, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Why it matters: Democrats have promised to pursue immigration reform through legislation that's also focused on expanding the social safety net and addressing climate change. But it's unclear if there is a remaining pathway.

  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters on Capitol Hill that he was "disappointed" and that Democrats "are considering what options remain."

Between the lines: Democrats have already banded together to pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill focused on road and bridge construction. The $1.75 trillion follow-on package targets climate change and would expand the social safety net.

  • The rejected proposal would have provided protection from deportation, work permits and potential access to other benefits for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
  • The Congressional Budget Office estimated 6.5 million people would have qualified.

What they're saying: The Senate parliamentarian wrote in a memo, "These are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact."

  • Senate Democratic leaders say they have not given up on pursuing immigration reform, promising in a statement to "pursue every means to achieve a pathway to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act."

The big picture: Two earlier and more expansive plans have already been rejected by the Senate parliamentarian, the first of which offered pathways to citizenship for as many as 8 million immigrants.

  • In earlier decisions, the parliamentarian criticized the provisions as being too sweeping and focused on immigration policy, rather than the budget — a requirement for legislation passed through the reconciliation process.
  • The iterative "Byrd Bath" process allows a back and forth between the parliamentarian and lawmakers.
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