Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s attempt to give Democrats more opportunities to pass legislation with a simple majority of votes has been granted by the Senate parliamentarian, according to his office.
The favorable ruling by Elizabeth MacDonough, who oversees Senate procedure, means the New York Democrat will have an extra chance to pass a bill with 51 votes this year. The ruling is good news for Democrats’ agenda, much of which faces fierce GOP opposition.
“This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues,” a Schumer spokesperson said in a statement. “While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward ... 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.”
Schumer’s aides argued last week that the budget reconciliation process Democrats used to pass their $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill unilaterally last month allows for additional opportunities to advance their agenda. Their argument hinged on a provision in the Congressional Budget Act that allows Congress to “revise” its most recently passed budget resolution.
With the favorable ruling, Democrats can potentially pass multiple spending bills with a simple majority, allowing them to circumvent Republicans on other issues that affect the federal budget such as climate, health care and taxes.
But the move would also set a major precedent, allowing the GOP to do the same whenever they take the majority.
Schumer’s gambit reflects the fact that his life in the Senate is about to become a lot more difficult ― at least with the filibuster on the books. Overcoming a filibuster in the evenly divided 50-50 Senate will require at least 60 votes, meaning 10 Republicans must join all Democrats.
Legislation that Democrats want to see become law this year ― on voting rights, immigration and gun control ― is all likely to be subject to a filibuster.
Biden doesn’t need Republican support to pass his massive infrastructure and jobs plan with budget reconciliation as an option. But the process this time around will be much longer and, given the jockeying among various Democratic constituencies, more acrimonious.
Congressional Democrats were on the same page, more or less, when it came to COVID-19 relief. Their disagreements are more pronounced on the issue of tax policy, for example.