The nine months I’ve spent hagglingnegotiations for have taught us that passing a bill can be a lengthy process. But now, donors to President Joe Biden are able to use a powerful tool that, if successful, would speed up the time it could take to pass a new COVID-19 aid package, and everything in it – including a that is coming in front of and .
The details of the maneuver, called budget reconciliation, can get confusing. We will do our best to break down what it is and how it might work. An important thing to know is that Democratic members of Congress want to use it to circumvent opposition from Republicans. But because of thein the Senate (with Vice President Kamala Harris running the tie-breaking vote), the use of budget reconciliation will only work if every Democrat votes in favor of the bill.
We will explain how using the budget reconciliation process would allow it to pass the incentive bill – and therefore the– in both the House and Senate by a simple majority vote, and why the Democrats consider it crucial to the outcome of a Senate vote. Here’s how it works and what’s happening now. This story has been updated with new information.
What is budget reconciliation?
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.
Budget reconciliation requires a simple majority rather than the normal 60 votes needed to pass expenditure or income legislation. The bill also cannot be linked to a filibuster, where a senator can use various 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 comes with strict guidelines on how it can be used and 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 these 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 to use the tool this year, one occasionally in the fall when it adopts a budget to fund the government.
Why is budget reconciliation key to Senate vote?
Since a bill must be passed in the House and Senate before it can become law, its convenience depends on which party retains the majority, or whether the bill in question has enough bipartisan support to be passed by a majority.
With the Senate evenly split, it takes 17 Republican senators to vote yes before passing the bill. That’s not considered likely, which would lead to negotiations over time and potentially drastically change the bill. Using budget reconciliation, the bill could largely remain as it is, and pass it faster – a win for Democrats and Biden.
Friday, the House and Senate both passed a bill on Feb. 5, in fact, list the necessary steps to use budget reconciliation when there is a bill to vote on. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said her intended time is to bring that up .
What wouldn’t be included in budget reconciliation?
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 go beyond the limits of the tool.
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 .