To get those votes, Biden and members of Congress could spend weeks negotiating the details of a package that would satisfy the Democrats and win enough Senate Republicans to pass the bill. But Biden has said repeatedly, both before and after he became president, that it can’t wait to get more aid into the country. “We must act. We must act now,” he said days after taking office.
However, there is one tool that Democrats could use to get around objections in both the Senate and the House: budget reconciliation. Using it, it would be possible to pass the incentive law in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with a simple majority. Although Parliament has a larger democratic majority, budget reconciliation could have a direct effect on the outcome of a vote in the Senate. Here’s how.
What budget reconciliation is
Budgetary reconciliation is a parliamentary tool that Congress can use to speed up the adoption of legislation. The coordination can start with the budget committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate, before the budget is put to the vote. The House and Senate are already taking steps to start the reconciliation process and push Biden’s package through without Republican backing.
Specifically in the Senate, budget reconciliation requires a simple majority to pass rather than the normal 60 votes required for expenditure or income legislation. The bill also cannot be tied to a filibuster, where a senator can use a variety of delaying tactics to block or delay an account.
Because it can be used to pass tax legislation that may not have bipartisan support, the budget reconciliation process has strict limits on not only how it can be used, but how often Congress can use it.
First, it can only be used for legislation that changes federal spending, income, and debt limits, such as Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package. Something called the Byrd Rule – named after former West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd – prevents items that don’t fit into any of the three budget categories from being included.
Second, the Senate can consider only one reconciliation per year for each of the budget categories: expenses, income, and debt. Because Congress did not pass a budget resolution for the 2021 budget in 2020, Congress may have two options this year to use the tool, one occasionally when it adopts a budget in the fall to fund the government.
How budget reconciliation can get a stimulus package approved
With an evenly divided Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as Senate President and Presiding Officer, can bring a tie if the Senate is deadlocked on a bill.
Using the budget reconciliation process, Congressional Democrats would be able to push through Harris’s cut ties of Biden’s American Rescue Plan that meet the requirements without Republican aid.
Not everything Biden wants to achieve would meet the requirements for reconciliation. Raising the minimum wage to $ 15 may be outside the requirements. Likewise, using the process to fund reopening of schools may be beyond the limits of the tool.
While Biden has said he wants to work with congressional Republicans to reach bipartisan agreements on his legislative agenda – and a group of 10 moderate Senate Republicans have proposed an alternativethey say it could gain Republican support – the president could decide the fastest way to approve his plan is through budget reconciliation.
How budget reconciliation has been used before
According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, Congress has successfully used the reconciliation process only 21 times since 1980.
The most recent use of the budget reconciliation process was under former President Donald Trump, when Congress used the tool to enact the government’s 2017 tax cuts. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Congress used the process to change the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
For more information on the next stimulus package, here, what you need to know , and what happens to it .