Five ways an obscure Senate ruling could change Washington


The Senate MP issued a ruling Monday night paving the way for unlimited use of a budget procedure to avoid legislative obstructionism.

The Elizabeth MacDonough ruling, which is largely unknown to the public, could change the way Washington operates and give Democrats significant leeway to advance their agenda over the next two years.

Here are five reasons the decision is a game changer.

Biden can potentially do much more without the support of the Republican Party

The most immediate change derived from the decision of the parliamentarian is that President BidenJoe Biden Joe Biden’s surprising presidency The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden and McConnell agree on vaccines, infrastructure clash Republican battle with MLB intensifies MORE He suddenly has more options to pass important parts of his agenda, even with a 50-50 split in the Senate and Vice President Harris’ tiebreaker vote.

“It’s important because it gives us a little more flexibility, we don’t have to bundle everything into one package,” said the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Bernie sandersBernie Sanders The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden’s Infrastructure Plan Triggers Debate Over Definition Sunday Shows – Infrastructure In The Spotlight Bernie Sanders goes after Elon Musk for wanting to explore the space MORE (I-Vt.) He said on MSNBC Monday night.

Budget reconciliation is a process that can circumvent legislative obstructionism, but has to be linked to an annual budget resolution.

Early in his tenure, Biden saw three opportunities to use the budget solution. The first, using the 2021 resolution that Congress didn’t bother to pass before the fiscal year began in October, was used for the $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. The second would be tied to fiscal 2022, and a third could potentially be used next year, before fiscal 2023, but before Democrats face midterm elections that could cause them to lose control of either chamber of the Congress.

The new ruling means that, in theory, Biden can go back as many times as he wants to amend the budget resolution to pass more policies, regardless of the fiscal year and what is happening with the budget.

If it’s easier to divide the infrastructure package into four separate bills, for example, or if you want to pass additional COVID-19 relief, increase corporate taxes, or change the age of Medicare eligibility, all without the support of the Republicans, you now have the Parliamentary Act. blessing to make it through reconciliation, or at least try.

Further erode the power of the filibuster

Progressives have lobbied vigorously for the Senate Majority Leader Charles schumerChuck Schumer From Steel to Fiber, Libraries Are America’s Infrastructure When it comes to the Iran nuclear deal, what can a moderate Democrat do? Gun control advocates applaud Biden’s funding plan, but say more needs to be done MORE (DN.Y.) to reject obstructionism, the 60-vote threshold required to promote most of the legislation.

The ruling could take some of the wind out of their sails, because it will make it easier for the ruling party to advance legislation with a simple majority in the Senate.

Right now, that applies to the Democrats, who control both the houses of Congress and the White House. Going forward, it will provide similar opportunities for Republicans, who found themselves in the same position in 2017 and may do so again in the future.

But critics of filibuster are likely to be dissatisfied given the strict set of limitations on the types of legislation that can be advanced using reconciliation.

While the budget solution is ideal for shifting taxes, benefits, some health care parameters, and even large-scale investments, it runs up against issues that are not directly related to deficits.

Limits on policies that are off limits to reconciliation, known collectively as the Byrd Rule, require that any policy not be “merely incidental” to its budgetary purposes, a call made by the parliamentarian on a case-by-case basis.

In late February, he ruled that an increase in the minimum wage did not reduce it. Similar rulings are possible if Democrats try to promote labor rights legislation such as the PRO Act, gun legislation, the right to vote, and immigration reform – all party priorities.

To pass any of them, they will need to reject obstructionism or find the support of 10 Republican senators.

It gives Sen even more power. Joe manchinJoe Manchin The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden, McConnell Agree Vaccines, Infrastructure Clash Manchin Calls On CDC To Investigate West Virginia HIV Outbreak Senate Parliamentarian To Allow Democrats To Bypass Republican Obstructionism On Two More Bills MORE

In an evenly divided Senate, Democrats cannot afford a single defection when passing laws through reconciliation.

No senator has been more willing to harness that power than Senator Joe Manchin (W.Va.), the House’s most conservative Democrat.

Manchin says the minimum wage should only go up to $ 11 an hour, instead of the $ 15 that most of his party drives, and he spoke out against Biden’s plan to pay for infrastructure by increasing the corporate tax from 21-28. percent.

He said he would object to raising it beyond 25 percent and did not hide his position.

“If I don’t vote to participate, you are not going anywhere,” he said Monday. “So we’re going to have some influence here.”

Manchin has shown that he is serious. He put the nail in the coffin of the White House budget director candidate Neera tandenNeera Tanden 2024 Republican White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden’s Cabinet White House delays release of budget plan Biden says Cabinet ‘looks like America’ at first meeting MORE when he said he would not vote to confirm it.

But others are picking up on the game and starting to speak out, which means it may be more difficult to hold together the ideologically diverse 50-member assembly.

Senator Mark warnerMark Robert WarnerLegislators Struggle With Capitol Security After Latest Attack Senate Democrats Unveil Hillicon Valley International Tax Plan: Parler Claims Alert FBI to Threats Before Capitol Riots | Warner Pressures Zuckerberg to Address Vaccine Misinformation on Facebook and Instagram | US Schools Increasingly Resume In-Person Learning MORE (D-Va.), A centrist, also said that significant changes would be needed for Biden to approve his infrastructure plan, while the senator is progressive. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee Wyden Senate MP will allow Democrats to circumvent Republican obstructionism on two more bills Senate Democrats unveil international tax plan Worried about China? Make it easy to find somewhere else MORE (D-Ore.), Who heads the Finance Committee, presented his own version of the international corporate tax legislation that took a somewhat different approach than that outlined by Biden.

Decouple the legislative calendar from budgeting.

Because the obstructionist solution is built into the budget resolution, the timing for passing the legislation was somewhat tied to the regular appropriations process to finance the government.

The reconciliation bill originates from the same budget resolution that establishes the general spending levels for the following fiscal years, defining how much is expected to be spent on defense and non-defense priorities.

That complicated the timeline for passing the reconciliation bills, as overall spending levels for the year should be agreed upon before the budget is approved.

It would be a difficult lift. Biden has yet to come up with his own overhead figures for next year, something all other incoming administrations have done in mid-March. His budget office noted that the figures would be released in the last week of March, only to delay their release.

Once overall budget figures are agreed, Congress must go through the lengthy process of passing 12 separate spending bills, with a threshold of 60 votes in the Senate that will require GOP support, by September 30. , when the fiscal year ends. or face a possible closure.

But the MP’s ruling that Congress can amend the resolution means the two are no longer united, removing an obstacle from the table calendar, or at least eliminating the need for other complicated solutions.

Take pressure off the debt ceiling

One potentially catastrophic gadfly that has plagued Washington, and Democrats in particular, during recent administrations has been the debt ceiling, or debt ceiling.

Even after Congress passes its spending and tax policies, setting deficits and borrowing requirements, the Treasury Department is legally prohibited from borrowing beyond a certain limit.

If Congress does not act to suspend or increase that cap when debt comes up against it, the country would default on its debt, potentially triggering a global financial crisis.

Republicans have repeatedly used the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip, most notably in 2011 when the then-president John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner MSNBC anchor: Boehner chasing ‘crazy’ Republicans is now ‘too little, too late’ Sean Hannity responds to former Boehner spokesperson: ‘What’s up with all the crying from John?’ Boehner on Bachmann: Right-wing media turned ‘people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars’ MORE (R-Ohio) insisted on an agreement to limit spending in order to increase the debt limit, resulting in a 10-year plan to limit spending that Congress proceeded to annul annually.

But the good news for Democrats is that Congress can raise the debt limit through a budget reconciliation bill.

The current suspension of the debt limit ends in August. The Treasury Department can buy a few more weeks of time by using internal “extraordinary measures,” but ultimately, Democrats would have had to finish their infrastructure bill by then or negotiate with Republicans to increase the cap.

Democrats had pondered whether they could simply draft separate reconciliation bills in the three areas that governs the process: spending, taxes, and debt cap.

The MP’s ruling means they no longer have to worry about that approach, or how the timing of the debt ceiling influences their infrastructure plans.

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