Senate parliamentarian deals blow to Dems’ immigration push

Sep 19, 2021, 5:39 AM | Updated: 10:20 pm
Dozens of dump trucks form a barrier as security measures are put into place before a rally near th...

Dozens of dump trucks form a barrier as security measures are put into place before a rally near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. The rally was planned by allies of former President Donald Trump and aimed at supporting the so-called "political prisoners" of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats can’t use their $3.5 trillion package bolstering social and climate programs for their plan to give millions of immigrants a chance to become citizens, the Senate’s parliamentarian said late Sunday, a crushing blow to what was the party’s clearest pathway in years to attaining that long-sought goal.

The decision by Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan interpreter of its often enigmatic rules, is a damaging and disheartening setback for President Joe Biden, congressional Democrats and their allies in the pro-immigration and progressive communities. Though they said they’d offer her fresh alternatives, MacDonough’s stance badly wounds their hopes of unilaterally enacting — over Republican opposition — changes letting several categories of immigrants gain permanent residence and possibly citizenship.

The parliamentarian opinion is crucial because it means the immigration provisions could not be included in an immense $3.5 trillion measure that’s been shielded from GOP filibusters. Left vulnerable to those bill-killing delays, which require 60 Senate votes to defuse, the immigration language has virtually no chance in the 50-50 Senate.

In a three-page memo to senators obtained by The Associated Press, MacDonough noted that under Senate rules, provisions are not allowed in such bills if their budget effect is “merely incidental” to their overall policy impact.

Citing sweeping changes that Democrats would make in immigrants’ lives, MacDonough, a one-time immigration attorney, said the language “is by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.”

The rejected provisions would open multiyear doorways to legal permanent residence — and perhaps citizenship — for young immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, often called “Dreamers.” Also included would be immigrants with Temporary Protected Status who’ve fled countries stricken by natural disasters or extreme violence; essential workers and farm workers.

Estimates vary because many people can be in more than one category, but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says 8 million people would be helped by the Democratic effort, MacDonough said. Biden had originally proposed a broader drive that would have affected 11 million immigrants.

Democrats and their pro-immigration allies have said they will offer alternative approaches to MacDonough that would open a doorway to permanent status to at least some immigrants.

“We are deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a written statement. “Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”

“A path to permanent residency and citizenship has a significant budgetary impact, great bipartisan support, and above all it is critical to America’s recovery,” said Kerri Talbot, deputy director of the Immigration Hub, a group of pro-immigration strategists. She said work would continue “to ensure that millions of undocumented immigrants can have lasting protections.”

The parliamentarian’s ruling was riling progressives at a time when Democratic leaders will need virtually every vote in Congress from their party to approve a 10-year, $3.5 trillion bill that embodies Biden’s top domestic goals.

It also comes with Republicans already signaling that they will use immigration, linking it to some voters’ fears of crime, as a top issue in next year’s campaigns for control of the House and Senate. The issue has gained attention in a year when huge numbers of immigrants have been encountered trying to cross the Southwest border.

“Democratic leaders refused to resist their progressive base and stand up for the rule of law, even though our border has never been less secure,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. He said putting the provisions into filibuster-protected budget measure was “inappropriate and I’m glad it failed.”

In fact, both parties have stretched the use of the special budget protections over the years. Democrats used them to enact President Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law, and Republicans used them during their failed 2017 drive to repeal that statute.

“It would have led to an increased run on the border — beyond the chaos we already have there today,” said the Senate Budget Committee’s top Republican, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

One alternative advocates have said they’re exploring would be to update a “registry” date that allows some immigrants in the U.S. by that time to become permanent residents if they meet certain conditions. But it was unclear if they would pursue that option or how the parliamentarian would rule.

White House spokesperson Vedant Patel called the parliamentarian’s decision disappointing but said senators would offer new immigration ideas.

MacDonough cited a CBO estimate that Democrats’ proposals would increase federal deficits by $140 billion over the coming decade. That is largely because of federal benefits the immigrants would qualify for.

But that fiscal impact, wrote MacDonough, was overshadowed by improvements the Democratic effort would make for immigrants’ lives.

“Many undocumented persons live and work in the shadows of our society out of fear of deportation,” she said. Permanent legal status would grant them “freedom to work, freedom to travel, freedom to live openly in our society in any state in the nation, and to reunite with their families and it would make them eligible, in time, to apply for citizenship — things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent.”

That, she wrote, “is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.”

Democrats and a handful of GOP allies have made halting progress during the past two decades toward legislation that would help millions of immigrants gain permanent legal status in the U.S. Ultimately, they’ve been thwarted each time by broad Republican opposition.

The House has approved separate bills this year achieving much of that, but the measures have gone nowhere in the Senate because of Republican filibusters.

The overall $3.5 trillion bill would boost spending for social safety net, environment and other programs and largely finance the initiatives with tax increases on the rich and corporations.

Progressive and moderate Democrats are battling over the measure’s price tag and details. Party leaders can’t lose any Democratic votes in the 50-50 Senate and can lose no more than three in the House.

MacDonough was appointed in 2012 when Democrats controlled the chamber and is respected as an even-handed arbiter of Senate rules.

Earlier this year, one of her rulings forced Democrats to remove a minimum wage increase from a COVID-19 relief bill, killing another top progressive priority.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and AP writer Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Nicaraguans heading to Honduran border to be vaccinated

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras, one of the last countries in Central America to receive COVID-19 vaccine, has designated a portion of its stockpile for citizens of neighboring Nicaragua as fewer Hondurans line up to be vaccinated. Since Monday, Nicaraguans have been flocking to Nicaraguan border towns to be vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, rather […]
16 hours ago
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in Wash...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Why Congress is looking closely at Jan. 6 rally

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has focused some of its early work on the planning of the rally at which President Donald Trump told his supporters to “fight like hell.” The rally, held that morning and planned by former White House and campaign aides, became a staging ground […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Man accused of rape convicted of trying to hire hit man

MONROE, La. (AP) — A Louisiana man has been convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill his ex-wife while he was in jail awaiting trial on sexual assault charges involving her two young daughters. A federal jury in Monroe found Steven Marcus Kelley, 48, of West Monroe, guilty on Tuesday of using […]
16 hours ago
FILE - In this Friday May 21, 2021, file photo, New York Attorney General Letitia James acknowledge...
Associated Press

AP Sources: Letitia James will run for New York governor

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Attorney General Letitia James plans to run for governor, according to three people directly familiar with her plans who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday. James will enter the race as a formidable candidate for the Democratic nomination just months after issuing a damning report that drove Andrew […]
16 hours ago
FILE - This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infect...
Associated Press

Cheap antidepressant shows promise treating early COVID-19

A cheap antidepressant reduced the need for hospitalization among high-risk adults with COVID-19 in a study hunting for existing drugs that could be repurposed to treat coronavirus. Researchers tested the pill used for depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder because it was known to reduce inflammation and looked promising in smaller studies. They’ve shared the results with […]
16 hours ago
This photo provided by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based o...
Associated Press

UN envoy blames to Syria for failure of constitution talks

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Syria said Wednesday the Syrian government’s refusal to negotiate on revisions to the country’s constitution is a key reason for the failure of talks last week that left the road map to peace in the conflict-torn country in question.. Geir Pedersen expressed his disappointment to the […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Senate parliamentarian deals blow to Dems’ immigration push