WASHINGTON (AP) — Pivotal Sen. Joe Manchin said Wednesday he would oppose overturning the Senate parliamentarian’s decision if she rules that immigration or other provisions should fall from Democrats’ huge social and environment bill, underscoring the party’s uphill fight to keep some top priorities in the legislation.
Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan rules referee, is expected to decide shortly whether language letting millions of migrants remain temporarily in the U.S. can stay in the 10-year, roughly $2 trillion measure. She’s also considering the fate of other initiatives, including parts of Democrats’ plan to curb pharmaceutical prices.
The moderate Manchin, D-W.Va., has spent months forcing Democrats to reduce the size and scope of the legislation, which the House approved last month. The Senate is all but certain to make significant changes to the bill. Party leaders hope Congress can approve a final version by Christmas.
Asked Wednesday whether he would vote to override a decision by the parliamentarian to erase the immigration provision, Manchin told reporters he would not.
“The bottom line is the parliamentarian, you stick with the parliamentarian, that’s all,” he said. “You stick on every issue. You can’t pick and choose.”
MacDonough’s decisions can be ignored by whichever Democrat is presiding over the chamber during debate, but Republicans could force votes challenging that. Ultimately, Democrats would likely need all their votes to defeat such GOP moves in the 50-50 chamber, where Vice President Kamala Harris can break ties. All Republicans oppose the legislation.
Manchin has supported past efforts to help migrants remain in the U.S., including proposals giving them pathways to citizenship, usually insisting that border security also be tightened.
Democrats are using special procedures that would let the legislation pass by simple majority in the Senate, not the usual 60 votes. But that requires all of a bill’s provisions to be chiefly driven by budgetary, not policy changes.
The parliamentarian makes the initial determination of that question, an opinion that lawmakers almost always heed.
Many progressive and pro-immigrant groups have been pressuring Senate Democratic leaders to override MacDonough if she says the immigration language must be dropped.
The Senate is expected to begin debating the legislation later this month.