The Biden administration recently received some bad news from the Senate parliamentarian.
According to The Hill, a ruling this week means that Democrats cannot include partisan immigration-reform policies in its nearly $2 trillion Build Back Better framework.
Parliamentarian interprets Senate rules
Democrats continue their effort to push the massive bill through an evenly divided Senate even as some members of the party continue to express concerns about the potential economic toll.
The nonpartisan parliamentarian’s role involves interpreting Senate rules, specifically whether certain aspects of the bill can be pushed through under reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority to pass.
Currently, the position is filled by Elizabeth MacDonough, who has served since 2012.
Democrats in the House have already used their slim majority to advance the $1.9 trillion bill, but it has subsequently stalled in the Senate. With no GOP support and a couple of holdouts on their own side of the aisle, Democrats can only hope to use the reconciliation process to send the legislation on to the White House. The catch, however, is that reconciliation is reserved for budgetary issues.
Since the process bypasses the Senate filibuster, Democrats have been trying to include a number of policies that critics would surely say are not budget-related. Among the most prominent are those related to immigration.
“Kind of acting like Republicans”
In its latest attempt to sneak partisan immigration language into the bill, the parliamentarian has once again shot the Democratic Party down.
While the Senate does not have a legal obligation to abide by the parliamentarian’s interpretation, there is no reason to believe that Democrats will not follow precedent and follow her recommendation.
At the same time, Senate Democrats have reportedly already begun discussing the possibility of replacing MacDonough with someone potentially more sympathetic with the Biden administration’s agenda. It remains to be seen whether progressive lawmakers are willing to take such a decisive step.
For now, it appears that Senate Democrats have more pressing matters regarding the Build Back Better bill. If they cannot convince Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) to fall in line, they simply will not have enough votes to pass it.
Without naming names, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) clearly referenced the two moderate Democrats, asserting: “You have 48 people in the Democratic caucus who are prepared, and a president of the United States prepared to think big. And you have two Democrats who, in my view, are kind of acting like Republicans.”