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.