President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer were dealt a blow in a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian that will give them essentially one opportunity to pass Biden’s ambitious spending plans on a simple majority vote this year.
The Democrats had been seeking approval for a strategy that would give them multiple opportunities to move Biden’s infrastructure and other spending plans through the chamber under special ‘reconciliation’ rules that would prevent a Republican filibuster.
Senate rule-keeper Elizabeth MacDonough ruled essentially that Democrats would get only a single bite at the apple – although Biden wants action on his $1.7 trillion infrastructure plan (slimmed down from $2.3 trillion), and his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan.
It all comes at a time when Biden is calling for June to be a ‘month of action’ – but his allies fret Republican filibusters will soon grind parts of his agenda to a halt.
‘June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill,’ President Joe Biden said this week. But this month could also be when his ambitious proposals slam into Republican filibusters
McDonough ruled that an “auto-discharge” of a budget resolution following Democratic revisions to provide additional reconciliation instructions is “not appropriate,” according to the ruling.
Budget-writers do get the chance to write reconciliation instructions into the budget resolution still being fashioned for the current year. But any revisions would have to make it out of the evenly-split Senate Budget Committee, where Republicans hold half the seats in the evenly-divided Senate.
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough
McDonough warned that the provision was meant only for ‘extraordinary circumstances and not for things that should have been or could have been foreseen and handled” in the budget resolution. Otherwise, future panels might just pass shell proposals only to force revisions later.
“The potential for abuse was clear in 1974 and is all the more obvious now,” she wrote, referencing the 1974 Budget Act. The staffer wrote that “overuse and over-reliance on a hyper-fast track procedure in the ordinarily deliberative Senate … will change the culture of the institution to the detriment of the committee and amendment processes and the rights of all Senators,’ Roll Call reported.
As the Hill noted, Republicans on the Budget panel could keep a revised budget resolution from emerging from committee by denying a quorum.
Schumer had been contemplating two or even three different reconciliation package, after his staff said it received an earlier ruling that provided sufficient flexibility for more than one reconciliation bill.
The significant procedural road block came on a day when the White House said there was no change in Biden’s position on the filibuster, and even walked back a statement Biden made Tuesday that appeared intended to brush back Senate Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have defended the filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) got the bad news in a letter from the parliamentarian Friday
Biden met Wednesday with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., as he seeks to win over Republican support for his infrastructure plan. Otherwise, some Democrats have said he could move under budget reconciliation procedures
Democrats fear Biden’s agenda will stall without changing Senate rules.
‘I don’t think he was intending to convey anything other than a bit of commentary on TV punditry,’ said Psaki.
Psaki was asked about Biden’s comment in Tulsa, where he said: ‘I hear all the folks on TV saying, “Why doesn’t Biden get this done?” Well, because Biden only has a majority of, effectively, four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.’
‘June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill,’ President Joe Biden said this week.