Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the public is now very familiar with the arcane subject of budget reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows legislation to pass through the Senate with just 51 votes rather than the 60 it takes to overcome a filibuster.
While not uncommon, budget reconciliation is normally used only once every fiscal year.
However, because Congress did not pass a budget last year, Democrats used reconciliation left-over from fiscal year 2021 to pass the American Rescue Plan. That means they still have the fiscal 2022 reconciliation bill as a vehicle for portions of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure, tax, climate, and social welfare agenda.
But, we are likely to even see a third reconciliation bill this year. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 says that Congress may revisit and amend an already-passed budget resolution, like the one used to pass the COVIS-19 relief package. This provision, known as Section 304, is likely to be very well-known come the summer and fall.
Staff to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have already appealed to the Senate Parliamentarian claiming that Section 304 allows for at least one additional set of reconciliation bills related to revenue, spending, and the public debt to be considered for Fiscal Year 2021, as this is not a commonly used provision.
Therefore, it would appear that the balance of legislation for the calendar year is likely to be done in a partisan, or mostly partisan manner, fueling additional partisan rancor on Capitol Hill. But it also appears that the Democrats' priorities now have a roadmap towards passage. CHPA will be on the lookout for any opportunities that these bills present.