Senate Democrats say they can now pass inflation-cutting bill – The Washington Post | Gmx Pharm


The Senate is now considering a climate, health and tax measure with $433 billion in new spending. Without Republican support, Democrats have turned to a process known as “reconciliation” — a budgetary tool that avoids a potential filibuster.

The Reconciliation has paved the way for Congressional action nearly two dozen times since its first application in 1980. But the 1974 Congressional Budget Act (CBA) that created reconciliation has some tricky rules. Here’s what you need to know about the process and potential pitfalls.

What the hell is reconciliation?

Congressional Democrats enacted the Congressional Budget Act in 1974 over President Richard M. Nixon’s veto. This act gave Congress new powers in federal budget planning, including the ability to create a draft budget and amend federal laws to ensure Congress can meet its revenue and expenditure goals.

The law originally directed Congress to make two budget decisions during the course of a fiscal year. The first resolution would propose an annual budget, which the second would refine. Budget resolutions set far-reaching requirements for the annual federal budget, but do not have the force of law. Instead, the CBA approved an optional “reconciliation” bill that would make the actual legislative changes to bring federal revenue and spending into line with the second budget. For example, if the budget called for increased Medicaid spending to provide health care for the poor, legislators could use the Reconciliation Act to revise the federal tax code to fund increased health care spending.

It’s not just Manchin. That’s why Congress is fighting to pass climate legislation.

Congress rewrote the Budget Act in 1985 to eliminate these second budget decisions. But the reconciliation stayed on the books to change federal laws to meet Congressional budget goals. Lawmakers originally viewed reconciliation as a tool to reduce the federal deficit, but Congress has stretched it over the years in ways that often increase the deficit. For example, in 2017, the GOP-led Congress used reconciliation to cut corporate taxes, which was estimated to cost the government nearly $2 trillion in revenue. And in 2021, Democrats passed the nearly $2 trillion stimulus plan through reconciliation. This time, the measure to secure Sen. Joe Manchin III’s (DW.Va.) vote would actually reduce the deficit — by raising taxes on corporations, prosecuting tax dodgers and overhauling the way Medicare works for prescription drug pays.

Why can’t reconciliation be filibustered?

Most Senate legislation requires a supermajority of 60 votes to halt debate and proceed to the vote. When a Senate majority fails to get 60 votes to end the debate, we typically say that a measure has been thwarted. But senators cannot force reconciliation measures because the CBA limits debate to 20 hours, divided evenly among the parties.

However, the limit does not include the time spent reviewing changes. This means that after debate time is up, senators typically participate in a “vote-a-rama” — often voting on amendments into the wee hours of the morning, only ending with the approval of all 100 senators. The Senate then moves to a final simple majority vote on the measure.

Both the House and Senate last year passed — with only Democratic votes — the budget resolution that set the parameters for a reconciliation bill. House Democrats moved first, passing a $2.2 trillion reconciliation bill titled “Build Back Better” last November. But Manchin torpedoed the bill last December — leading to repeated negotiations this year to narrow the conciliation measure down to his and that of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), another potential holdout. With the Senate split evenly 50/50, the Democrats could not afford defectors.

To the shock of even Washington insiders, Democrats finally rallied around this revised law last month — renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. Democrats have scheduled an initial vote to call the measure Saturday, with Vice President Harris standing by should her vote be needed to break a tie. If everything goes according to plan, the Senate will then hold a debate lasting up to 20 hours, move on to the vote-a-rama and move on to the final passage votes by Monday at the latest. Observers expect the House of Representatives to pass the measure by the end of the week, despite objections from all Republicans. Speakers of the House would not have to worry about a vote, as House Rules empower a majority to bar change if they so choose.

How did a bipartisan group of senators agree on new weapons measures?

As early as the 1980s, Senator Robert Byrd (DW.Va.) and others believed that the majority parties were abusing the Reconciliation’s filibuster ban to stuff it with provisions unrelated to federal deficit reduction. Thus was born the CBA’s Byrd Rule to ban what the law calls “foreign” matter — typically policy changes that have no direct and material impact on the federal budget.

The Byrd Rule specifies a six-step test of what counts as “foreign.” However, applying the law can be difficult – not least because one of the points is vaguely worded, leading senators to rely on the chamber’s bipartisan MP to advise on whether a provision is being complied with.

Before a reconciliation bill goes into the Senate, proponents and opponents of a provision usually try out their arguments with the Houseman who is “Byrd-bathing” the bill to scrub provisions she advises violate the Byrd Rule violated And once a reconciliation is on the ground, the leader traditionally relies on the MP’s advice to identify violations of the Byrd Rule in parts of the bill or newly proposed amendments. Senators can appeal a verdict, but it takes 60 votes to overturn the Byrd Rule or overturn a verdict.

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The Byrd bath has already been underway for several weeks to ensure key parts of the bill conform to the Byrd Rule and the MP has now done so blessed Key climate plans and prescription drug plans, which represent just a portion of drug pricing proposals.

Once the bill takes the floor, Republicans can offer challenging amendments to remove key provisions and force Democrats to cast votes that could be used against them in midterm campaigns. But the Byrd rule could overturn changes, and Republicans probably wouldn’t muster the necessary 60 votes to overturn the rule. Progressive Democrats could also try to beef up the bill, but they’re unlikely to succeed.

Eventually, even if the GOP were successful in getting changes, Democrats would have the option to wipe out all changes with a final “replacement” known as the “all-around” change. But Manchin has vowed never to vote for repeats like this again, so everything depends on keeping all 50 Democratic senators on the same side.

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