Senate Parliamentarian Shoots Down Green Cards in Democrats' Reconciliation Bill

AP Photo/Gregory Bull

The Senate Parliamentarian told Democrats they can’t tuck an estimated eight million green cards into the budget reconciliation bill. The provision was intended to provide a multiyear pathway to legal permanent residence for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children and those admitted under Temporary Protected Status. On Sunday, the non-partisan referee, Elizabeth MacDonough, said the budget impact of the provision was “merely incidental” to the overall effect of the policy. MacDonough, who used to work as an immigration attorney, said the proposal “is by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.” This assessment is obviously correct.


Democrats in Congress said they would offer alternative proposals to convince MacDonough that the budget reconciliation should include some parts of their plan. In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “We are deeply disappointed in this decision, but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues. Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) praised the ruling in a statement. “Senate rules never contemplated a majority circumventing the filibuster by pretending that sweeping and transformational new policies were mere budgetary changes,“ he said. “Tonight’s ruling confirms that principle. Democrats will not be able to stuff their most radical amnesty proposals into the reckless taxing and spending spree they are assembling behind closed doors.” He also pointed out how the Democrats are controlled by their radical left wing, “This just illustrates how radical Democrats’ aspirations are and how unmoored their far-left wish list has become from the procedures they want to use to ram it through.”

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And the radical left members are not happy. Ilhan Omar tweeted that Schumer and the White House should ignore the parliamentarian’s ruling.

This tweet is not the first time the radicals have suggested violating Senate norms. Earlier in the Biden administration, the party’s left wing called for firing MacDonough and eliminating the filibuster when she spiked the $15 minimum wage provision in the stimulus bill. MacDonough has been in the role since 2012, when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appointed her.

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MacDonough’s charge is interpreting and applying all of the Senate’s rules to advise the presiding officer, Vice President Kamala Harris. While Harris is not required to follow the parliamentarian’s advice, doing so would be a significant violation of Senate norms. When the minimum wage provision failed to pass the parliamentarian’s scrutiny, the Biden administration held to long-standing norms and did not challenge MacDonough’s ruling. How it will respond to the latest blow to their agenda is not clear.


MacDonough’s ruling comes amid a new crisis at the border with thousands of Haitian immigrants crossing into the U.S. in Del Rio, Texas. Republicans assert that the Biden administration’s border policies, and promise to provide amnesty to some illegal immigrants, are making the crisis worse. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will hold a press conference from Del Rio today.


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