Democrats pitch parliamentarian on immigration plan B

Senate Democrats are pitching the Senate parliamentarian on their backup plan for getting immigration reform into a sweeping spending bill.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that Democrats are currently presenting an alternative plan to parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who decides whether something complies with the strict rules governing what can be included in the spending bill. 

“We’ve presented a legal memo for the second approach and a CBO score,” Durbin said, referring to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats previously pitched the parliamentarian on using the spending bill to provide 8 million green cards for immigrants in four groups: “Dreamers,” temporary protected status holders, and agricultural and other essential workers.

But MacDonough rejected that effort, arguing that it doesn’t comply with the rules for reconciliation — the budget process that Democrats are using to bypass the filibuster in the Senate.  

“The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” she wrote in the ruling obtained by The Hill, referring to the budget process Democrats are using to avoid the Senate filibuster.

Because Democrats are using reconciliation to pass the spending bill without GOP support, there are strict requirements for what can be included. One of the requirements is that any provision in the bill has to impact the federal government’s spending or revenues and that the impact can’t be “merely incidental” to nonbudgetary intentions.

MacDonough’s ruling was a blow to Democrats, who have struggled for years to get immigration reform through Congress.

Progressives immediately called on Democrats to overturn MacDonough, a move that would require the support of all 50 Democrats plus Vice President Harris in the chair.

But Senate Democrats rejected those calls, noting that there wasn’t the support within the caucus for using the hardball tactic. 

Instead, they immediately began searching for a plan B.

Durbin confirmed on Tuesday that part of their pitch to MacDonough is to change the registry date for certain undocumented immigrants and beneficiaries of humanitarian parole programs, essentially implementing a statute of limitations for past unauthorized entries. 

It currently allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before 1972 to apply for legal status. Durbin said he could not remember the date Democrats were suggesting updating it to, and Durbin’s office declined to say. 

According to an analysis by, changing the registry date to 2010 — allowing any migrants who’ve been in the country since that date to apply for residency — would make around 6.7 million people eligible for legal permanent residency.

“It would help a lot of people,” Durbin said about the move. 

Tags Dick Durbin Immigration parliamentarian Plan B Reconciliation Senate spending bill

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