WASHINGTON — The Senate's nonpartisan parliamentarian says Democrats can't use their $3.5 trillion budget package bolstering social and climate programs to give millions of immigrants a chance to become citizens.
The decision by the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, deals a blow to what was Democrats' clearest pathway in years to attaining that long-sought goal.
Democrats had sought to include the proposal in their budget package because such deals require only a simple majority to pass and are shielded from the filibuster.
MacDonough's decision Sunday means that Democrats would need 60 votes — including votes from 10 Republicans — to pass such a proposal.
Citing sweeping changes that Democrats would make in immigrants' lives, MacDonough, a one-time immigration attorney, said the language "is by any standard a broad, new immigration policy."
It's a disheartening setback for President Joe Biden, congressional Democrats and their allies in the pro-immigration and progressive communities.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Senate Democrats are disappointed with the decision but have prepared alternate proposals.
"We are deeply disappointed in this decision, but the fight to provide lawful status for immigrants in budget reconciliation continues," Schumer said in a statement. "Senate Democrats have prepared alternate proposals and will be holding additional meetings with the Senate parliamentarian in the coming days."