$1.9 trillion COVID spending bill

Senate Parliamentarian Rains on Chuck Schumer’s Parade

Photo Credit: Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

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 four months, the Democrats have 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 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.

In April, he was convinced he had found one.

Specifically, Schumer and his aides had 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 (as opposed to only one) additional spending bill.

At the time, Axios’ Mike Allen wrote: “Top policy aides to Schumer recently argued to the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, 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 explained. “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.”

Less than a week later, MacDonough appeared to hand Schumer a big win. Her ruling, according to the Democrats, meant that she agreed with Schumer’s interpretation and that they would likely be allowed to bypass the filibuster on two additional spending bills. In other words, Schumer would need only a simple majority to ram through two more bloated spending bills without a single Republican vote.

Following the ruling, Schumer’s spokesman Justin Goodman issued a statement which read: “The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. 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 that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.”

It seems that Schumer might have misunderstood that there were conditions attached to MacDonough’s April decision which were spelled out in a new ruling issued late on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend.

In a memo to Senators about Friday’s ruling, MacDonough wrote: “The drafters and early users of 304 uniformly believed that it was to be used in extraordinary circumstances and not for things that should have been or could have been foreseen and handled in a 301 resolution. The potential for abuse was clear in 1974 and is all the more obvious now.”

Journalist Jake Sherman explains in the tweet below that in order for Democrats to use reconciliation more than once, “there would have to be reasons beyond political expediency – like an economic downturn.” It cannot be used to avoid the filibuster.

God knows we’re sorry Chuck.

(Note: The Hill’s Alexander Bolton provides a detailed explanation of the budget reconciliation process here.)


3 replies »

  1. I read a lot of news, and I sure like the way you pull things together. Sometimes you connect ‘dots’ that I haven’t even noticed – thank you!
    I’ll have to work a bit to feel sorry for Chuck (and several others). Never mind, busy with important things…

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