H. L. Mencken, a well-known writer and journalist of the early twentieth century, is likely best remembered for the following quote: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.”
If, as we’re told, 81 million Americans voted for President Joe Biden, they are indeed getting it good and hard. In just over two months, the Democrats have already radically transformed the United States of America.
Via a parliamentary procedure called budget reconciliation, which allows the Senate to pass “certain tax, spending, and debt limit” bills by a simple majority vote, the Biden Administration recently rammed through a bloated and unnecessary $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill without a single Republican vote. Reconciliation, however, has its limits. It can only be used twice each fiscal year.
Like a kid in a candy store, limitations simply will not do for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Knowing that the filibuster, which requires at least 60 votes to pass legislation, would otherwise prevent him from passing his socialist agenda, he has been desperately searching for a way to change the rules.
Unfortunately, he may have just found one.
Specifically, Schumer and his aides have been eyeing Section 304 of the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1974 which covers “Permissible revisions of concurrent resolutions on the budget,” according to The New York Post.
You won’t be surprised to hear that their “interpretation” of the language is that they are entitled to use reconciliation to pass at least one additional spending bill.
According to Axios’ Mike Allen, “Top policy aides to Schumer recently argued to the Senate parliamentarian that revising this year’s budget resolution could ‘trigger an additional set of reconciliation instructions,’ which would allow for further 50-50 votes that are decided by Vice President Harris.”
“If the Senate parliamentarian upholds Schumer’s interpretation, Democrats can pass more pieces of the party’s agenda without having to bust the filibuster rule, which requires at least 60 votes — and therefore 10 Republicans in the 50-50 Senate.”
“It’s not clear how many additional reconciliation opportunities this theory would open up,” Allen writes. “But the conventional wisdom is that Democrats have just one more shot at reconciliation this year, and this route would give them at least one more.”
One of Schumer’s aide’s told Axios that “no final decision has been made on the legislative strategy. Schumer wants to maximize his options to allow Senate Democrats multiple pathways to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda if Senate Republicans try to obstruct or water down a bipartisan agreement.”
So, based upon the parliamentarian’s decision, Democrats may be able to use reconciliation to pass at least one more budget busting bill this year than they had anticipated.
There is hope, however. Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has disappointed Schumer before. The Democrats had hoped to slip a $15 minimum wage hike into the COVID-19 relief bill and according to CNBC, MacDonough ruled that its inclusion would violate Senate rules.
Immediately, some Democrats wanted MacDonough fired, as The Washington Post reported.
At the time, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley wrote, “The Parliamentarian’s role is key to a system of orderly legislative process. To simply disregard such rules (and fire those who seek to maintain them) is yet another example of the rage that has replaced reason in our current politics.”
Turley is right about that.
Additionally, I don’t think Republicans in the Senate would simply take this on the chin. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to go “scorched earth” if Democrats were to abolish the filibuster. During a floor speech to his colleagues last month, he said: “Let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues: Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin — can even begin to imagine — what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like.”
This is nothing but a power-play. Democrats would do well to remember when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid nuked the filibuster for executive branch nominations and federal judicial appointments in November 2013. His bold move backfired spectacularly when Republicans won back the Senate majority in 2016.
In 2017, then-Senate Majority Leader McConnell nuked the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations allowing former President Donald Trump to confirm three of his nominees to the court by a simple majority in the Senate.
Although it feels impossible at this point, Republicans may take back control of the Senate in 2022 and Democrats may be setting a precedent they will regret.