White House shakes off immigration blow dealt by Senate parliamentarian

White House shakes off immigration blow dealt by Senate parliamentarian

President Biden has made it clear that he backs the effort to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and he expects Democrats to offer a new proposal for the Senate parliamentarian to consider after being dealt a setback earlier in the day, a White House spokesperson told Fox News late Sunday. 

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s nonpartisan parliamentarian, ruled that Senate Democrats cannot use the controversial $3.5 trillion package to give millions of immigrants a chance to become citizens. The Associated Press called her decision a “damaging and disheartening setback” for the administration.

But the Biden White House seemed to be undeterred.

“The President has made very clear that he supports efforts by Congress to include a pathway to citizenship in the reconciliation package and is grateful to Congressional leadership for all of the work they are doing to make this a reality,” the spokesperson said. “The Parliamentarian’s ruling is deeply disappointing but we fully expect our partners in the Senate to come back with alternative proposals for the Parliamentarian to consider.”

The issue has been hotly contested in Washington. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News in July that the Democratic push to add amnesty to the package is a “power grab” that may be the dumbest idea in the history of the White House and the Senate.

“If you give one person legal status there will be a run on our border like you have never seen before…the dumbest idea in the history of the Senate, the history of the White House. It will lead to the breakdown of law and order beyond what you see today,” he said.

Graham took to Twitter to praise the parliamentarian’s decision that he said reinforced “long held traditions of the Senate that major policy changes should be done collaboratively and not through the reconciliation process.” 

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, issued a statement after the parliamentarian’s ruling, saying his party is “deeply disappointed in this decision but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues.”

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.

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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.”

Fox News’ Patrick Ward and the Associated Press contributed to this report