Congressional Democrats are resorting to desperate and undemocratic measures to bulldoze new legislation into law, which - as Politico warns - "could set a significant new precedent by empowering any party in full control of Washington to stretch the limits of its power."
At issue; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says his office was just given the green light by the chamber's parliamentarian to use the budget reconciliation process for a second time to "recycle the fiscal '21 budget resolution," which only requires a simple majority to pass certain measures as opposed to a bipartisan 60 votes currently mandated by the Senate filibuster rule, according to Politico's Caitlin Emma.
Schumer scores a major win with Senate parliamentarian, who says he can recycle the fiscal ’21 budget resolution to deploy reconciliation for a second time.— Caitlin Emma (@caitlinzemma) April 5, 2021
Could have *huge* repercussions for the use of reconciliation moving forward: https://t.co/AW4ZvmMu9M
"The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions," reads a statement from Schumer's office, adding that "While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out, the Parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward..."
Infrastructure news: Chuck Schumer’s office says the parliamentarian agrees with his interpretation of the Senate budget process, which could enable Democrats to bypass a filibuster and use reconciliation once more in fiscal year 2021 (and several more times next year). pic.twitter.com/OoiEQpd6lX— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) April 5, 2021
Democrats used budget reconciliation to pave the way for the most recent - and massive - pandemic stimulus bill, allowing them to pass the measure with a 51-vote majority (with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker).
As Emma wrote last week, "Democrats could pass Biden’s multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure agenda without GOP support, while keeping another shot at muscling through major priorities that are now stuck on the back burner."
The move is certain to set a new precedent for any party that commands 'every lever of government power' - "to muscle its priorities past partisan roadblocks by using a process that's supposed to be an exhausting lift for lawmakers."
Now, "reconciliation could technically get used as often as a Senate majority party wants to, provided that it also holds the House and White House. The biggest reason Democrats may not want to use the procedure over and over again, though, is the sheer laboriousness of a process that forces members to spend hours upon hours on the floor in both chambers, in addition to two Senate voting marathons in which anyone can force a roll-call vote on any amendment of their choice," according to the report.
"If this is allowed, that’s going to be the thing that limits this process," said Zach Moller, deputy director of economics at the Third Way think tank, in comments prior to today's news. "Because Senate floor time is incredibly valuable."
That said, Democrats aren't going to want to use reconciliation every time - as it means that the parliamentarian can scrap portions of Democrats' legislation if they feel they're incompatible with various 'arcane' rules that dictate when the rule can be used. As such, "Democrats recognize that reconciliation doesn’t work as an end-run around eliminating the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold for passage of most bills that their left flank is pushing to kill for good."
"You don’t want to do business via reconciliation all the time," one House Democratic lawmaker told Politico on condition of anonymity, adding "The Senate is totally screwed up."
"The Senate needs to figure out how it wants to be an effective legislative body, and that’s kind of the bottom line," the added.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) telegraphed the decision - saying "Unfortunately, this looks like it's not going to head in the direction that I had hoped," adding "My advice to the administration is, if you want to do an infrastructure bill, let's do an infrastructure bill. Let's not turn it into a massive effort to raise taxes on businesses and individuals."