Senate parliamentarian to Dems: Maybe you didn't hear me the first two times on immigration

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Third time’s the charm? Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill are fresh out of charm, and fresh out of luck with the Senate parliamentarian. About the only saving grace on this triple humiliation for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi is that the reconciliation bill isn’t going anywhere anyway:

The Senate parliamentarian on Thursday rejected the most recent push from Democrats to include immigration reform in their party-line social spending bill, leaving party leaders scrambling for an alternative. …

In her ruling, the parliamentarian wrote that the provision would create a new class of about 6.5 million eligible individuals, “nearly the same number of people as the previous two plans.” The parliamentarian noted that “these are substantial policy changes with lasting effects just like those we previously considered and outweigh the budgetary impact.”

The House proposal came after the Senate parliamentarian previously ruled that Democrats couldn’t include a pathway to legal status in their social spending bill. She also rejected a second Democratic proposal to change the date on a decades-old registry law to provide more undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

Elizabeth MacDonough had already struck similar provisions from Senate versions of the Build Back Better bill twice before Pelosi stuck them in the House version. She made her caucus walk the plank on the massive tax cut for the wealthy in the SALT cap increase in part by promising them the immigration provisions. Now House Democrats have to explain their vote for a giveback to the One Percent while coming up empty on immigration — again.

Dick Durbin insisted that Senate Democrats would review their “options” to pursue the immigration workaround anyway. The problem for Durbin and Schumer is that they don’t have any options, and the pitchfork-and-torch brigade has begun looking for them:

The absence of the temporary immigrant protections from the bill is set to frustrate both immigration advocates and Democrats, some of whom have insisted that the $2 trillion package include immigration measures. Some have also called on Senate Democrats to ignore the parliamentarian’s finding and move forward with the measures anyway.

While centrist Democrats have said they don’t support such a move, advocates and some progressive Democrats may now begin to more vocally advocate for it.

“This can be disregarded,” said Rebecca Shi, executive director of American Business Immigration Coalition, a group advocating for a path to citizenship or other measures for immigrants in the country without permission. “The Senate should move forward with a path to citizenship for the essential workers and dreamers who have worked and made our nation stronger throughout Covid.”

Move forward how? Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the bill even without MacDonough’s ruling, and certainly don’t have the votes to override a parliamentary decision on top of that. Activists can fulminate all they want, but the bill was already mostly dead before Schumer got the parliamentary hat trick. Pelosi’s need to flex her muscles raised their expectations far above what Democrats could actually deliver, a very common thread for the BBB, and now they’ll have to deal with the massive letdown over a bill that never had a chance to pass in the first place.

About the only “option” left for Schumer, Durbin, and Pelosi is to push a recess today, get out of town, and hope everyone forgets their empty promises over the holidays. That’s futile as well, but at least they can pull off a recess vote. I think.