Nothing is going right for President Joe Biden.
As two moderate Democratic senators signal they might block Biden’s ambitious $3.5 trillion spending plan, the Senate Parliamentarian dealt Biden another heavy blow to his immigration agenda late Sunday.
What are the senators saying?
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), the Senate’s most moderate Democrat, is reportedly saying privately that he believes Democrats should take a “strategic pause” on pursuing the massive $3.5 trillion spending package until next year, Axios reported.
Manchin’s plan is highly problematic for Democratic leaders. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer envision a vote on the package, via budget reconciliation in the Senate, sometime before September ends.
More from Axios:
Any delay on the Democrat-only reconciliation package could imperil House passage of the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Pelosi has promised to pass by Sept. 27. House progressive lawmakers are publicly vowing to vote against the infrastructure bill if it’s not paired with the $3.5 trillion bill to be passed through the budget reconciliation process. But centrist Democrats are adamant the House pass the bipartisan bill first — next week.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is also complicating matters for Biden.
According to Politico, the Arizona Democrat reportedly told Biden in a private meeting last week that she will not support passing the $3.5 trillion spending package if the bipartisan infrastructure bill is not first voted on or if that bill fails altogether.
What did the Senate Parliamentarian say?
Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough dealt a “big blow” to Biden’s spending package by ruling that a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally cannot be included in the $3.5 trillion spending package.
Democrats want to provide green cards, and a pathway to citizenship, to approximately 8 million immigrants, including so-called “Dreamers,” essential workers, agricultural workers, and those under temporary protected status. But because Democrats want to pass the spending bill via budget reconciliation — allowing them to pass the bill without Republican support — strict rules limit what can be included in the bill.
In the ruling, obtained by The Hill, MacDonough determined the immigration plan did not pass muster because it would be “by any standard a broad, new immigration policy.”
“The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” MacDonough said.
Granting lawful permanent resident “status would give these persons freedom to work, freedom to travel, freedom to live openly in our society in any state in the nation, and to reunite with their families and it would make them eligible, in time, to apply for citizenship – things for which there is no federal fiscal equivalent,” she explained. “Changing the law to clear the way to LPR status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact.”
Democratic leaders expressed disappointment over the ruling, but vowed to prepare alternative proposals to ram through immigration policy via budget reconciliation.
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Author: Chris Enloe
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