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In another blow to Democrats’ aspirations to include immigration provisions in Biden’s Build Back Better bill, the Senate parliamentarian opposed a plan to grant protection from deportation and work authorization to millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States. It’s yet another frustrating example of how the filibuster has combined with Senate bureaucracy to stop immigration reform.
In order to bypass the filibuster, Democrats have attempted to include immigration in the budget—which can pass through reconciliation, requiring only a simple majority of 51 votes. But to do so provisions have to adhere to the Byrd rule, which requires each piece has an impact on federal spending and revenue that isn’t “merely incidental.” It falls to the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, to determine if provisions meet that measure.
On Thursday, MacDonough, an unelected official who plays an advisory role regarding compliance with the chamber’s legislative rules, issued a short guidance arguing the proposal would amount to “substantial policy changes with lasting effects” and outweigh the budgetary impact.
This is the third time MacDonough, a former immigration prosecutor, has rejected proposals to include immigration measures in the $2 trillion social and climate spending bill. The initial plan would have created a path to citizenship for Dreamers who came to the country as children, essential workers, Temporary Protected Status holders, and farm workers (in line with Biden’s early regularization legislative proposal). After it was deemed a no-go, a second alternative Democrats presented to MacDonough, also rejected, entailed updating a provision in immigration law called “registry” that allows certain long-term undocumented immigrants to become legal permanent residents. Under the most recent watered-down version known as Plan C, about 6.5 million…