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Democrats fall short in third attempt to get immigration in Build Back Better bill

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he was "disappointed" and that the party is "considering what options remain."
Image; Chuck Schumer, Biden Budget To Begin Congressional Spending Talks
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on May 28, 2021.Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats were informed Thursday that immigration provisions are ineligible for inclusion in President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act, marking the third time their efforts have fallen short.

The arcane Senate rules for the legislation mean House-passed immigration provisions to allow work permits for undocumented people must be jettisoned, according to the Senate official responsible for determining the budgetary restrictions.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told reporters on Thursday he was "disappointed" upon hearing the news.

"We're considering what options remain," the Illinois Democrat said.

The House version of the legislation included provisional work permits to about 6.5 million undocumented people in the U.S., under a process known as parole. It would have cost more than $100 billion over a decade, as estimated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which proponents cited as evidence that it should qualify for inclusion in the budget-focused bill. Progressives and Hispanic Caucus members pushed hard to include it.

It was the third effort by Democrats to include immigration provisions after the previous two were also rejected.

Durbin said the Senate parliamentarian this time offered the "same reasoning — just too many rights extended."

The Senate parliamentarian, in announcing her decision, wrote, “The proposed parole policy is not much different in its effect than the previous proposals we have considered," according to two sources who received the official's email.

The likely exclusion of immigration from the legislative package deals another blow to the party on one of its highest priorities. It also comes as Democrats struggle to get the Build Back Better bill across the finish line in the Senate.

“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,” Durbin said in a joint statement with Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

Asked if Democrats will make another attempt to include immigration, Durbin told reporters, "No, not at this point." He said "no decisions have been made" about next steps.

But he added: "We're not going to stop fighting for them."