Last week, our blog reported that the initial Democrat proposal to offer 8 million undocumented immigrants green cards was rejected by the Senate Parliamentarian. Specifically, the Senate Democrats sought to bypass the Senate filibuster via budget reconciliation, which requires Parliementarian approval. In that blog, we noted that the Democrats had a Plan B: changing the registry date for undocumented immigrants, which would set a kind of statute of limitations on unauthorized entry.
Today, we are disappointed to report that the Parliamentarian has rejected the Democrats’ Plan B.
In her guidance, Parliementarian Elizabeth McDonough (a former immigration attorney) said altering the registry date is a “weighty policy change and our analysis of this issue is thus largely the same,” a reference to her objection to the Democrats’ first proposal. She rejected the first immigration reform proposal for being ‘political’ rather than financial, which is a requirement of the budget reconciliation process.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey voiced his disagreement with her decision, but he remains determined to propose a solution the Parliamentarian will approve.
Critics Point Out Parliamentarian’s Limited Authority
Critics of the Senate Parliamentarian’s decisions point out that she is not an elected figure. Technically, the Parliamentarian is an attorney hired by the Senate to serve as a kind of referree; however, her decisions can be overruled with a majority vote. If all 50 Senate Democrats voted in a single bloc with the Vice President present, they could theoretically overrule the Parliamentarian’s rejection. However, leading Democrats have ruled that out as a possibility.
Still, immigration advocates from around the country have called on the Democrats to do everything possible to ensure a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people. For now, the Senate Democrats will need to regroup and return with a third proposal.