Home United States Congress Congress Reconciliation: A Ray of Hope for Democrats for Legislation in Congress

Congress Reconciliation: A Ray of Hope for Democrats for Legislation in Congress

by Eli Mshomi
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With the Georgia win, the Democratic Party now controls the United States Senate along with House and the executive branch. 

There is a common perception that the Democratic Party will not be able to pass its legislation because it has a simple majority, and a Senate filibuster could stop them from passing the legislation, as most of the legislation requires sixty senators’ votes. 

It is true that the Democrats only hold a simple majority where they will need the vice president’s vote to make Chuck Schumer the majority leader and their chairman on Senate committees. However, it is wrong to believe that Democrats will not be able to pass their legislation, mainly due to Congress reconciliation.

Congress reconciliation is a legislative process in the United States through which political parties can expedite the passage of certain legislation, especially budget resolutions from the Senate.

The Senate filibuster requires a sixty votes majority for the passage of legislation. Still, through Congress reconciliation, a Senate filibuster could be avoided, and bills could be passed even with a simple majority. 

Democrats are likely to use the reconciliation measures for the $2,000 COVID-19 relief package that Republicans failed to provide to the masses despite the severe coronavirus crisis.

How will Democrats use Congress reconciliation to make things happen in the years to come? Let’s have a look.

Bifurcated Senate: Is it a Dead-end Tunnel?

With Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s victory in the Georgia runoff elections, the United States Senate now has equal votes on both sides of the aisles.

However, both the House and Senate are being controlled by Democrats now, which is a sign of relief for them. After Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casts her tie-breaking vote, Chuck Schumer will replace Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority leader, and Democrats will control the Senate. 

This will make it easy for President-elect Joe Biden to get approval for his cabinet nominees from the Senate with a majority vote.

The Republicans might try to delay the process, but there is nothing much that they can do about it once Democrats establish their rule in the Senate. 

Legislations will need GOP support, but there is a narrow exception for fiscal measures using the Congress reconciliation process. Moreover, the majority of progressives are pushing to end the sixty votes requirement, which can be done with a simple majority. However, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is likely to block this effort from the Democratic side. 

Reconciliation is a common process, and both parties have used it during their governments. Democrats used it during the presidency of President Obama to pass much of the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans used reconciliation while passing their 2017 tax overhaul.  

Congress Reconciliation: A Way Forward for Democrats for Budgetary Plans:

Democrats are preparing for special legislative measures to disperse trillions of dollars in policy priorities, including massive infrastructure plans and other campaign promises.

They are also looking for mandatory spending in the health sector and distributing the coronavirus vaccine to the masses. 

Democrat Representative Ms. Jayapal, who has served in the budget committee, believes that reconciliation is an opportunity for Democrats to spend on infrastructure, clean energy, health care, deficit reduction, and other progressive areas. 

Democrats are likely to use the reconciliation for a massive health care expansion if the Supreme Court knocks down the Affordable Care Act. 

Similarly, Democrats have to lead Congress to the upcoming fiscal year after a decade of enduring

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strict budget caps and threats of automatic spending cuts.

There are chances that Capitol Hill will have to grapple with raising the debt limit on federal borrowing next summer to counter the calamity. Last summer, the White House led the lawmakers through the last year of the 2011 Budget Control Act, which limited the federal government’s spending. 

Democrats have no restrictions on how much they could spend, so they have to spend wisely, keeping in mind that the country is going through a pandemic, and they may need to introduce special rules to combat the health crisis.

Currently, there is an intense discussion concerning Pentagon spending among the progressive block of the Democratic Party. With Bernie Sanders as the Chair of the Budgetary Committee, it will be easy for progressives to introduce and pass their legislation; however, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and President-elect Joe Biden will still have the final say in the matter. 

 

Congress Reconciliation: A Quick Way to Approve $2,000 COVID Stimulus Package 

Joe Biden is to wield power during extraordinary health and economic challenges as he prioritizes delivering to those who have been affected by the pandemic through the reconciliation instructions.

Biden promised that Americans would immediately receive stimulus checks once he takes over the presidency. Congress has already filed in passing the stimulus bills, but now, with Democrats holding the Senate, House, and presidency, it will be easy for Biden to pass the $2,000 stimulus checks bill. 

Incoming Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer also made it clear in his recent press briefing that the stimulus package will be among the first business that the United States Senate will look after. As already mentioned, Democrats hold a simple majority, but they will easily pass the stimulus package with multiple efforts, which include reconciliation as well. 

 

 

Infographic explaining congress reconciliation

 

Congress Reconciliation: Not a Long-term Trick:

Although Democrats could use reconciliation in budgetary matters to control the spending and revenue, there are several other policy changes where they will require GOP support and might not be able to pass them through the Senate. 

The Biden Administration plans to roll back tax cuts introduced by the Trump administration while also increasing taxes on top corporations and individuals earning more than $400,000 per year. This will be a testing job for Biden, as many moderate Democrats will also side with Republicans to block such efforts. 

Non-budget-related regulation changes such as Climate Change, immigration policy, gun control, minimum wage, and labor rights will also need a sixty votes majority to pass. However, President-elect Joe Biden can use executive power to roll back Trump’s regulations, and Congress can also use the Congressional Review Act to rescind the recent Trump regulations. 

 

Conclusion

Democrats have promised massive changes during their election campaign. However, their simple majority in the Senate is not enough to deliver on these promises. 

Democrats have the option of reconciliation for budgetary matters, but those are the limited powers as well.

President-elect Joe Biden is likely to use the presidential executive power to roll back the Trump administration’s policies. 

Nevertheless, the Democrats are expected to provide Americans with an immediate stimulus package that can be easily be passed using the reconciliation process.

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