Washington (CNN) — As US President Joe Biden seeks a bipartisan COVID-19 relief deal, Senate Democrats are laying the groundwork to pass relief without any Republican vote, using a procedural shortcut known as budget reconciliation.
The budget reconciliation could allow Democrats to accelerate key aspects of Biden’s agenda, from COVID-19 relief to infrastructure issues, but the process comes with a strict set of rules attached.
Here’s what you need to know about budget reconciliation.
What is budget reconciliation?
The conciliation process was established as part of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, to make it easier and faster to pass legislation related to spending, taxes and public debt, because the debate on bills is limited 20 hours and can be approved by majority vote.
Budget reconciliation allows legislators to bypass the 60-vote threshold normally required to break the threshold and move legislation forward.
Democrats currently control exactly 50 seats in the 100-seat Senate, and Vice President Kamala Harris has the runoff vote as Speaker of the Upper House. That’s enough for Democrats to use reconciliation to pass some types of legislation.
What can be approved by budget reconciliation?
Laws are only eligible for the budget reconciliation process if they affect federal income or spending.
They are subject to what is known as the regla Byrd, a multi-pronged test designed to exclude provisions deemed bizarre, without any real impact on the budget or that may affect Social Security.
It is named after the late Senator Robert Byrd, a Democrat from West Virginia, who condemned the reconciliation bills as laden with provisions deemed too far from their original purpose. In more colorful Senate jargon, the provisions the MP is deleting are undergoing a “Byrd bath.” When they fail the meeting and are removed from the bill, it is called “Byrd’s waste.”
As the committees write their bills, they will try to make sure their proposals are approved by Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough, who must enforce the Byrd rule. Senators can challenge MPs’ 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?
Reconciliation has been used many times by both parties to pass controversial legislation on minority party objections, including the Affordable Care Act of former President Barack Obama, in 2010, and radical tax cuts the Trump and 2017.
How would budget reconciliation be used for the pandemic crisis package?
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer presented a budget resolution Monday, the first of a two-step process that will allow work to begin drafting the novel coronavirus relief bill in committees.
The budget vote will now clear the way for Democrats to potentially pass their relief bill in late February or March, after the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is completed in the Senate.
The budget resolution will include reconciliation instructions for various commissions to draft legislation, which in this case would address different aspects of Biden’s COVID relief, including funds for vaccine production and distribution, unemployment insurance, stimulus controls. and more.
Formal conciliation instructions “will direct one or more committees to recommend changes to existing law to achieve specific changes in spending, revenue, deficit, and / or debt ceiling. Educated committees can accomplish their goals 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 timeline do Democrats hope to get to pass a final stimulus package?
The party is aware that they have to change their legislation in mid-March, when Enhanced unemployment benefits expire for people affected by the pandemic recession.
The House would have to first pass the budget resolution and then send its version to the Senate. If the Senate amends it, the House of Representatives would have to pass it again before committees can begin work on reconciliation instructions.
How are things in the Senate?
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still working to shore up support from centrists in his group, including West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, to make sure he has the 50 votes needed to pass the budget resolution. with a tiebreaker vote from Vice President Harris.
You cannot lose a Democrat in your party group.
In the Senate, the debate on the resolution will be limited to 50 hours in plenary. But before a final vote takes place, senators can offer an unlimited number of amendments to the resolution in a process that in Senate parlance is called “vote-a-branch.”
This time-consuming and resistance-defying ritual often extends 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 to your opponents.
What do the Republicans say?
Republicans are frustrated that Democrats are threatening to use the aggressive tactic as bipartisan efforts continue, arguing that it would set a partisan tone for the remainder of Biden’s presidency.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism