White House press secretary Jen Psaki expressed frustration Friday after the Senate parliamentarian ruled for a third time against Democrats’ push to include immigration reform in President Biden’s Build Back Better Act.
“The decision by the parliamentarian is deeply disappointing and relegates millions to an uncertain and frightening future,” Psaki told reporters on board Air Force One.
“The president, the administration and our partners on the Hill vehemently disagree with this decision and will keep fighting to give relief and protection to the many Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers and essential workers who are living in fear.”
“Ultimately,” she concluded, “it’s time for Congress to stop kicking the can down the road and finally provide certainty and stability to these groups, and make other badly needed reforms to our outdated immigration system.”
Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled late Thursday that language allowing an estimated 6.5 million immigrants who have been in the US illegally since at least 2010 to apply for up to two five-year work permits failed the parliamentary test determining whether it should be in the measure.
Democrats are looking to pass the bill through reconciliation, which allows them to bypass the 60-vote legislative filibuster and pass the measure by a simple majority. However, Senate rules require such legislation to be strictly focused on budget and spending matters, as well as the removal of “extraneous matter.”
In September, MacDonough twice ordered the removal of immigration provisions from the bill. One nixed draft would have permitted illegal immigrants who arrived in the US before 2010 to apply for legal status if they met certain conditions. An initial proposal would have granted permanent status to immigrants illegally brought to the US as children, farm and essential workers and people who fled certain countries affected by violence or natural disasters.
With each ruling by MacDonough, progressives have called on Senate Democrats to ignore her rulings and forge ahead with the immigration language anyway.
When asked if the White House would encourage such a drastic move, Psaki answered: “We would encourage and support any effort that they make to look at any ways to move immigration forward.
“But I’m not suggesting we’re advocating for a change in the Senate parliamentarian roles at this point in time,” she added. “I’m just suggesting we support their efforts to get immigration reform done.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that of 6.5 million migrants who would ultimately get the temporary permits, around 3 million would later gain permanent residency because their new status would remove some obstacles in that process.
The latest proposal fell well short of Biden’s initial plan this year to give the 11 million immigrants in the US without legal authorization a way to seek permanent residency and even citizenship.
With Post wires