The U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, USA on Thursday, January 21, 2021. Stefani Reynolds / Bloomberg / Getty Images
Senate Democrats are now laying the groundwork to use a rare procedural tactic known as reconciliation to pass much of President Biden’s Covid-19 bailout package when Republicans are in the way, according to several Democratic advisors.
While the leadership hasn’t given the go-ahead and negotiations with the Republicans haven’t started, advisors tell CNN that the process is complicated and mysterious, so if they need to take advantage of it, they’re preparing now.
“You just can’t do this overnight,” said an adviser to the Democratic Senate, referring to why the process is already beginning.
While the Biden administration’s first goal is to get its nearly $ 2 trillion plan passed through the regular Senate process with bilateral support through the regular Senate process, chances are good enough Republicans can be won just months after a package is passed About $ 900 billion through the Senate to pass another massive stimulus package In December. Many Republicans have already signaled that they think the package is too expensive or even unnecessary at this point.
“We just received a $ 900 billion grant, why should we have such a large package now? Maybe in a few months, ”said Senator Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from Maine. “The needs will be obvious and we have to do something meaningful. But I don’t see it right now. “
For its part, the Biden administration has begun meeting with Republicans who it has determined may support the package in order to build support
“I had a pretty good look at their Covid proposal,” Murkwoski told reporters earlier this week. “It was an opportunity for me to ask some questions.”
But behind the scenes, lawmakers are realizing that time is of the essence and preparing to pursue reconciliation when needed. The Chairs of the House and Senate Budgets Committee have not shied away from speaking publicly about their plans.
“The caucus would prefer this to be done in a non-partisan way. We have not yet made a decision to apply reconciliation, but we stand ready to act very quickly if it looks like we cannot do otherwise, ”said Rep. John Yarmuth, chairman of the House Committee on Budgets, on Thursday.
Hours later, Senator Bernie Sanders, chairman of the Senate Budgets Committee, told Seth Meyers that the first goal was to reach out to the Republicans, but he argued they couldn’t wait to come along.
“I think we should turn to the Republicans if they choose not to get on board, which I think likely will be. We should use that majority very aggressively,” Sanders said. I think we should make sure that we address the needs of the American people in this law of reconciliation, and if we pass it by 51 votes, we will pass it by 51 votes.
The first step would be to send a budget bill through the committee to essentially unlock the process. Once that was done, Senate Democrats were able to revise Biden’s bill to fit into a very specific framework of what is allowed in the process. Reconciliation requires that whatever is passed has a real impact on the budget and not just a “random” one. The process also requires that proposals have no social security impact and that the budgetary impact should not last more than 10 years if the changes are permanent. With the process requiring skipping through so many frames and consulting the Senate MP, the committee’s staff have been working for weeks to make sure they understand the process and are ready if it needs to be applied.
“There’s not much room for error,” said another Democratic adviser, noting that the committees need to go through Bidens’ proposal point by point to see what can fit into the reconciliation.
The strategy has precedent: Republicans took advantage of the reconciliation process when they tried to repeal and replace Obamacare in the Senate in 2017. Months later, the GOP successfully used the process to revise the country’s tax legislation, which was only passed with Republican votes.
Talks on reconciliation have revived in the past few days as Democrats have been frustrated by stalled negotiations on organizing the Senate. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has dug himself in and insisted that majority leader Chuck Schumer agree to receive the filibuster for the next two years. The filibuster protects the minority party in the Senate by requiring that the legislation reach a procedural threshold of 60 votes before it is passed. Schumer has argued that politics has never been part of an organizational resolution, but the problem has delayed the process of setting up committees and passing Biden’s nominees.
There are still questions about which parts of Biden’s Covid-19 aid package will be allowed to advance in the context of reconciliation. Some aides have noted that items like the $ 15 minimum wage may have trouble meeting the criteria.