Senate Rules Interpreter Elizabeth MacDonough ruled Sunday that Democrats cannot use their $3.5 billion spending plan to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
McDonough, who acts as a nonpartisan arbiter of Senate rules and decides on technical issues such as whether a mass legalization of undocumented immigrants would have a place in the federal budget, dealt a blow with his recommendation to one of the Democratic bills.
The decision came after a meeting attended by progressive and conservative lawmakers.
The Democrats sought to provide a path to citizenship for 8 million of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.
The last mass legalization of irregular immigrants took place in 1986.
MacDonough has had to decide whether this immigration plan had enough effect on the federal budget to be included in a reconciliation bill, which requires a simple majority to pass in the upper chamber.
This would be the only way to move legalization forward because if the plan is not approved through the reconciliation mechanism, it would require 60 votes in the Senate, which the Democrats do not have, since they have 50 seats plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.
MacDonough considered that granting citizenship to millions of migrants would be “a tremendous and lasting policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.”
Even so, he warned that it would “set a precedent” that could be used against any legal immigrant, since “the policy of taking away the status of any immigrant would not greatly outweigh any budgetary impact.
“That would be a surprising development,” he added, “but a logical consequence of allowing this proposed change in reconciliation and is further evidence that the policy changes in this plan far outweigh the budgetary impact allocated to it and is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation.”