The Senate parliamentarian dealt a significant blow to Democrats seeking to pass a $1.85 trillion social welfare and green energy bill, ruling that the measure cannot include a provision that would legalize millions of workers now living illegally in the United States.

Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough told Democrats the legalization language extended too many rights to conform with special rules governing what can be included in the legislation, Majority Whip Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said Thursday.

The provision would have provided up to 10 years of legal status for workers living in the country illegally.

“Disappointed,” Durbin said when asked by reporters for his reaction to MacDonough’s decision. “And we’re considering what options remain.”

MacDonough has already rejected other attempts by Durbin to usher through immigration legalization in President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. Earlier this year, she ruled out language that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

MacDonough’s decision came as Democrats begin losing hope they can pass the legislation by Christmas, if ever.


Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, has yet to pledge his support for Build Back Better, saying the measure needs major changes and should not be rushed to the Senate floor.

Democratic leaders have been negotiating all week with the parliamentarian, hoping to finalize and produce legislative text. But the final bill has not yet been written.

It is now likely that immigration will not end up in the legislation.

Democrats had hoped to usher legalization through by hitching it to the Build Back Better bill, which they plan to pass using a budgetary tactic that would require only 51 votes instead of the usual 60 votes.

Years of stalled bipartisan efforts to overhaul immigration left Democrats believing the only way to provide legal status or a pathway to citizenship for people living in the U.S. illegally is to find a way to do it unilaterally.

But the rules governing that tactic have limited which provisions can be included in the legislation, and Democrats have been unable to convince the parliamentarian that a major provision providing legal status or citizenship to illegal immigrants should be included.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that Democrats are not giving up.

“We strongly disagree with the Senate parliamentarian’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act,” Schumer said in a joint statement with several other Democrats. “The majority of Americans support our efforts to provide legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States because it would raise wages, create good-paying jobs, enrich our economy, and improve the lives of all Americans.”