AOC Demands Senate 'Override the Parliamentarian' to Include Amnesty in Spending Bill

AOC Demands Senate 'Override the Parliamentarian' to Include Amnesty in Spending Bill

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
December 8, 2021

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) is demanding Senate Democratic leaders to "override the parliamentarian" and include a pathway to citizenship in President Biden's $1.75 trillion "Build Back Better" social welfare spending bill.

"The Senate needs to step up, override the parliamentarian," Ocasio-Cortez said. "The parliamentarian is not elected. It is not an elected position, and the parliamentarian has been overridden and dismissed in the past. We will not surrender our power to an unelected parliamentarian. We need to use our power to help the people."

"Our demand is for the Senate to override the parliamentarian, include a full path to citizenship, and send it back to the House," she added.

At a news conference with a handful of House progressive Democrats and immigration activists held outside the Senate side Tuesday, the firebrand progressive reiterated her push for Senate Democrats to disregard the parliamentarian's decision. She argued that House Democrats would vote for stronger immigration provisions since Democrats "have a trifecta" — control of the House, Senate, and White House, they have an "opportunity" to pass an amnesty provision.

"Democrats have a trifecta — we have the House, we have the Senate, and we have the presidency — and if we want to do it, we will. We must," Ocasio-Cortez said. "We have an opportunity to make this happen."

The push from immigration activists and some liberal House Democrats comes as the Senate Democratic leadership seeks to pass the legislation by Christmas.

Democrats, who narrowly control both chambers of Congress, jampacked Biden's massive social welfare spending bill with chock-full of liberal priorities. However, 60 votes are needed in the Senate to pass any sort of budgetary legislation. With the Senate split 50-50 and no Republicans supporting their massive spending bill, Democrats are steamrolling the views of the minority party by using a maneuver known as reconciliation. This legislative maneuver allows the Senate to pass budget legislation with only 51 votes and prevent Republicans from filibustering the bill.

Before the Senate can vote on any reconciliation bill, it must first undergo the "Byrd Rule," which Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, scrubs through the massive legislation the House recently passed to determine what provisions qualifies for the budget reconciliation process.

MacDonough has already blocked two different immigration amnesty reforms Senate Democrats' sought to jam in the multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act. In September, MacDonough blocked Democrats' efforts to include provisions in granting permanent status to immigrants illegally brought to the U.S as children, farm and essential workers, and people who fled certain countries affected by violence or natural disasters.

She argued that "changing the law to clear the way" for the nearly 8 million undocumented immigrants is a "tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact," and warned the move would "set a precedent" that could be easily reversed by the next Congress looking to repeal the provision.

A week later in Democrats attempted to shove a plan to change the "registry date," which grants immigrants who arrived in the U.S before the date to apply for legal status if they met other conditions. The federal immigration law registry date is currently set for 1972 and only allows those in the U.S before the imposed date to apply. MacDonough ruled that Democrats' plan of changing the "registry date" is a "weighty policy change and our analysis of this issue is thus largely the same" as the first original plan.

Following the double rejection, Progressives urged Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the White House to "ignore" MacDonough's by overruling the latest ruling and keep their plans in the spending bill. The majority party can overrule the ruling by having Harris disregard the parliamentarian's advice. However, overruling the parliamentarian would be a significant change in Senate custom and precedent as both sides have accepted the final rulings to end budgetary disputes.

Democratic leadership has so far been willing to abide by MacDonough's rulings despite nixing their multiple immigration proposals from reconciliation already. Senate Democrats who are longtime proponents of immigration reform previously called the AOC's idea unrealistic and downplayed the idea.

However, as they await MacDonough's ruling on their latest amnesty provision, Democrats, including Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), are now warming up to the idea of overruling the parliamentarian if she rules against their latest proposal.

"I'd vote for that," Durbin told reporters earlier this week. "I hope it doesn't come to that."

Disregarding the parliamentarian's decision would require, at minimum, the support of all 50 Democrats. But moderate Democrats, especially Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), is adamantly opposed to overruling MacDonough's decision.

"I'm not going to vote to overrule the parliamentarian," Manchin told reporters Tuesday after House Democrats news conference. "I'm not going to do that. They all know that."

The House version of the Build Back Better legislation, which narrowly passed before thanksgiving weekend last month, includes a provision that ​would allow about 6.5 million illegal immigrants to apply for work permits, granting them parole status for five years and protecting them from deportation.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

Mona Salama is a political reporter for The Floridian covering Congress, the White House and Congressional elections.

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