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Dems Can Only Sidestep GOP on One More Bill This Session, Senate Parliamentarian Rules

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) touts Senate Democrats’ legislative accomplishments at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 25, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters)

The Senate parliamentarian issued a new ruling that would effectively allow Democrats to use automatic budget reconciliation just one more time this year to bypass Republicans to advance President Biden’s progressive agenda. 

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that a revision to the 2021 budget resolution cannot be automatically discharged from the Senate Budget Committee, according to The Hill. This means that Democrats would need at least one Republican on the 11-11 panel to vote with them if they want to use reconciliation on more than one occasion before the legislative session ends in October.

The ruling, issued on Friday, effectively means that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) will only be able to use reconciliation one more time this year to pass Biden’s sweeping policies with a simple majority instead of with 60 votes required by the Senate filibuster. 

The ruling means Democrats will not be able to split the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, and the president’s proposals to expand Medicare and lower the price of prescription drugs into separate reconciliation packages. Instead, it will all have to be joined into one budget reconciliation package in order to advance with a simple majority vote.

While reconciliation bills are limited to budget matters and have historically been limited to one per fiscal year, Democrats had hoped to pass multiple reconciliation bills each year under the guise of revising the existing budget resolution.

However, MacDonough has now ruled that in order to revise a budget resolution, the measure must go through committee and have floor amendment votes — making the process of revising a budget as lengthy as creating a fresh one, according to Bloomberg. The Senate parliamentarian also ruled that there must be a legitimate, non-political reason for a revision, such as a new economic downturn.

Democrats can now only create multiple reconciliation vehicles based on the 2021 budget resolution or 2022 budget resolution

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