The reconciliation process was set up as part of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act to make it faster and easier to pass legislation related to spending, taxes, and debt, because debate on the bills is limited to 20 hours and can be passed on a simple majority vote.
Budget reconciliation allows lawmakers to bypass the 60-vote threshold typically required for breaking filibusters and moving legislation forward.
Democrats currently control exactly 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, and Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote in her capacity as Senate president. That’s enough for Democrats to be able to use reconciliation to pass some kinds of legislation.
What can be passed using budget reconciliation?
Bills are only eligible for the budget reconciliation process if they affect federal revenue or spending.
They are subject to what’s known as the Byrd rule, a multi-pronged test designed to keep out provisions considered extraneous, without any real impact on the budget, or that might affect Social Security.
As the committees write their bills, they will try to ensure their proposals will be approved by Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough who must enforce the Byrd rule. Senators can challenge the parliamentarian’s decisions and vote to waive the Byrd Rule, but they would need a 60 vote majority to do so.
When has reconciliation been used before?
How will budget reconciliation be used for the Covid package?
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer introduced a budget resolution Monday, the first in a two-step process that will allow the work of writing the coronavirus relief bill in committees to begin.
Embedded in the budget resolution will be reconciliation instructions for several committees to write legislation, which in this case would deal with different aspects of Biden’s Covid relief, including funds for vaccines production and distribution, unemployment insurance, stimulus checks and more.
The formal reconciliation instructions will “direct one or more committees to recommend changes to existing law to achieve specified changes in spending, revenues, deficits, and/or the debt limit. Instructed committees can comply with their targets by making changes to any of the programs under their jurisdiction,” according to the House Budget Committee, which is chaired by Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky.
What timetable are Democrats looking at for reaching a final package?
The House would have to pass the budget resolution first and then send its version to the Senate. If the Senate amends it, the House would have to pass it again before the committees could begin work on the reconciliation instructions.
Where do things stand in the Senate?
He can’t lose one Democrat in his caucus.
In the Senate, debate on the resolution will be limited to 50 hours on the floor. But before a final vote occurs, senators can offer an unlimited number of amendments to the resolution in a process referred to in Senate parlance as a “vote-a-rama.”
This time-consuming and stamina-challenging ritual often stretches past midnight and allows senators, through the amendments they offer, to highlight issues important to them and try to score political points by forcing politically sensitive votes on their opponents.
What are Republicans saying?
Republicans are frustrated that Democrats are threatening to use the aggressive tactic while bipartisan efforts continue, arguing it would set a partisan tone for the rest of Biden’s presidency.