Senate parliamentarian sides with Democrats on filibuster workaround

The Senate parliamentarian has ruled that Democrats can use budget reconciliation on two more pieces of legislation this fiscal year, a spokesman for Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The move, revealed by a Schumer (D-NY) rep Monday, likely clears the way for President Biden’s two mammoth infrastructure bills to pass the upper house of Congress without GOP support.

In a statement, the top-ranking Senate Democrat’s office said that “no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304,” while calling the parliamentarian’s ruling “an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed.”

Aides to Schumer argued to the parliamentarian last month that they could use Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to pass another bill through budget reconciliation, the method by which Democrats approved Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package.

Republicans in the chamber have yet to respond to the parliamentarian’s opinion.

Budget reconciliation allows the party in power to bypass the legislative filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 members to end debate on most topics and move forward to a vote.

Nancy Pelosi (C-L) and Senate Majority Leader from New York Chuck Schumer (C-R) hold up President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package after the House voted to approve the bill outside the US Capitol in Washington DC on March  10, 2021.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hold up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package after the House voted to approve the bill outside the US Capitol on March 10.
EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

The current 50-50 split leaves Democrats in need of 10 Republicans to pass major legislation, which they don’t appear to have on any of the House-approved bills yet.

While Vice President Kamala Harris has a tie-breaking vote, 51 votes are not enough under current rules to break through the filibuster.

In recent months, Democrats have faced growing pressure from inside the party to abolish the filibuster in order to push the party’s more ambitious legislative efforts through the upper chamber of Congress.

Democratic leadership, including Schumer, President Biden, Vice President Harris and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) all came out in favor of filibuster “reform” last month as pressure mounted.

The two-part “Build Back Better” proposal, a centerpiece of Biden’s post-COVID campaign message, will be split into two packages for Congress to pass.

The first focuses on infrastructure, while the second will be aimed toward funding Democrats’ domestic policy platform.

If Schumer opted to not use his third available reconciliation for the second half of Biden’s infrastructure package, he could instead pass the fiscal 2022 budget resolution, though that seems unlikely.

Democrats could also use reconciliation for other party priorities that have languished in a GOP-led Senate, such as Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposal to lower the Medicare qualifying age to 55 or 60.

Speaking to MSNBC Monday evening, Sanders celebrated the parliamentarian’s ruling, calling it “important because it gives us a little more flexibility.”

Democratic leadership, including Schumer, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) all came out in favor of filibuster "reform" last month as pressure mounted.
Democratic leadership, including Schumer, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin all came out in favor of filibuster “reform” last month as pressure mounted.
Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

“Right now, what this new reconciliation package is about is dealing with long-term structural problems. Everybody knows our physical infrastructure is collapsing. We know we can create millions of jobs, transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel,” the progressive pol said.

“But also, we have got to deal with human infrastructure,” he continued.

What won’t be able to be addressed by Democrats through this ruling, however, are issues that aren’t budget-related, such as gun control and voting rights legislation.

The White House did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on the decision.

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