Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) believes he has found a way to use the Senate's rules to end-run around the filibuster and pass major pieces of President Joe Biden's legislative agenda with a simple majority vote.
Major pieces of Biden's agenda like the $15 federal minimum wage, amnesty with citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens, or a new federal assault weapons ban are unlikely to muster enough Republican support in the 50-50 Senate to overcome the threat of a legislative filibuster. Democrats need 60 votes to close debate on a pending bill, and as long as they are unwilling to compromise their radical progressive agenda they won't find 10 Republicans willing to lend their support to it.
But multiplereports indicate Senate Democrats think they've found a way to bypass a potential filibuster and that they will try it to advance Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.
The plan involves using budget reconciliation — a somewhat obscure legislative rule that a majority can use to pass bills with budget-related items with a simple majority vote.
Under the current interpretation of the Senate's rules, budget reconciliation can only be used once every fiscal year when Congress passes a budget resolution. Last year, Congress failed to pass a budget resolution, so Democrats used their fiscal year 2021 budget reconciliation to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. They can still use the FY 2022 budget reconciliation this year to pass another piece of Biden's agenda, be it infrastructure or tax increases, a climate bill, or additional health care reform.
Democrats lack the votes to end the filibuster outright. So to pass more bills, they will attempt to revise the current budget resolution and argue that the revision makes it possible to use budget reconciliation again to pass another bill.
As a Senate aide to Schumer explained to CBS News:
... a Schumer aide said the majority leader is asking the Senate parliamentarian whether he can revise the current budget resolution to allow for another reconciliation process to pass the infrastructure package.
Top Schumer aides have asked the parliamentarian about using Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to allow for a second reconciliation process this fiscal year. The parliamentarian is an expert on the obscure procedures of the Senate, and can determine whether certain actions are permitted under Senate rules.
Schumer aides argue that Section 304 would allow for a second reconciliation process to be used this fiscal year, because it says "the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to."
If the parliamentarian agrees with Schumer's argument, the Democratic majority in the Senate (with Vice President Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote) could use budget reconciliation as many times as they please to pass any bill that is related to the budget. But even should the parliamentarian disagree, Schumer still has options. The Democrats can pass the FY 2022 budget resolution this year and the FY 2023 budget resolution next year, giving them an opportunity to use budget reconciliation at least twice more during Biden's first term.
There is also the nuclear option. If the Democratic majority votes to overrule the parliamentarian's interpretation of the Senate rules, they can create a new precedent that becomes the Senate rule on budget reconciliation. In the short term, that would mean Democrats can advance more bills without the threat of a filibuster. But in the long run, they may come to regret doing so when Republicans have a majority and recapture the White House.
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