Richard Durbin dismisses overruling Senate parliamentarian on amnesty in Biden spending plan

Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin dismissed the possibility of Democrats overturning a ruling that prevents an immigration amnesty being included in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion expansion of the federal safety net.

Mr. Durbin, Illinois Democrat and the party’s chief vote counter in the Senate, said Monday that any attempt to change the chamber’s rules to pass a pathway to citizenship along party lines was likely to fail.

“I don’t believe that’s realistic,” Mr. Durbin said. “I think the votes needed on the floor are not there.”

Democrats originally hoped to include a pathway to citizenship within Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion welfare bill, which party leaders are preparing to pass via budget reconciliation.

The process allows spending and tax measures to avoid the 60-vote filibuster threshold and pass with a simple 51-vote majority.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian who referees what can go into a budget reconciliation bill, nixed the idea. In a ruling released Sunday, Mrs. MacDonough dismissed the Democratic argument for why amnesty was part of the reconciliation process.

Democrats argued the effects of an amnesty would be hundreds of billions of dollars in government revenue and benefits over the coming decades, which meant it should qualify as a budget measure.

Ms. MacDonough disagreed, arguing that by “any standard” granting a pathway to citizenship was a “new immigration policy,” rather than a budgetary one.

“The policy changes of this proposal far outweigh the budgetary impact scored to it and it is not appropriate for inclusion in reconciliation,” she wrote.

The parliamentarian’s decision quickly spared rebuke from far-left Democrats, including members of the “Squad.”

Many have called on Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer to either fire Ms. MacDonough or hold a vote on overruling her decision.

“This ruling by the parliamentarian is only a recommendation. @SenSchumer and the @WhiteHouse can and should ignore it,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, said on Twitter. “We can’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do the right thing.

Officially, the Senate can vote to overturn a reconciliation determination made by the parliamentarian. For such an effort to succeed, only a simple majority of the Senate is needed.

At the moment, Democrats hold 50 seats, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

Despite having that majority, Mr. Durbin said it was not “realistic” that every single Democrat could be counted on to support a motion to overrule the parliamentarian.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I just don’t think at this moment that’s a realistic approach,” he said.

Kery Murakami and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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