Congress

Schumer Hints He’ll Use Reconciliation for COVID Relief

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally given up his bid to impose his will on the new majority, Senate Democrats can finally get down to business in the coming weeks. But that will still be difficult in some if not most cases because they will only control a simple majority of the chamber with no room to lose a single vote in an evenly divided Senate.

To that end, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is making it fairly clear that they will use budget reconciliation and possibly even eliminate the legislative filibuster to accomplish their goals.

“We want to work with our Republican colleagues to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way. But the work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. [...]

Schumer’s comment comes the morning after top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s former majority leader, agreed to dropped his blockade of a deal for a power-sharing agreement in the Senate, where each party controls 50 seats. The Democrats have control of the chamber because Vice President Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.

Speaking to local interests in New York yesterday, Schumer said he hopes to pass a relief bill by March.

“We’ll try to get that passed in the next month, month and a half,” Schumer said with regard to pandemic aid on Monday, speaking on a call with New York City mass-transit advocates.

Biden said it would be up to Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as to whether to use a budget-rule procedure to forgo Republicans and proceed just with Democratic support. The Schumer timeline reflects the length it could take to craft a bill using that expedited process, called reconciliation.

“The decision to use reconciliation will depend upon how these negotiations go,” Biden said Monday.

Ideally, the new majority would take up a relief bill and vote on it tomorrow, but that can't happen without eliminating the legislative filibuster.

As much as I would personally like to see the filibuster eliminated, doing so may have long term consequences if Republicans regain control of the Senate. And while I still think that's a risk worth taking to make significant progress between now and then, Democrats in Washington are only going to do so as a last resort and I can't necessarily fault them for being cautious.

Without immediately eliminating the filibuster, the alternative to passing a relief bill is budget reconciliation and that's why it will take so long to pass a relief bill without Republican support. Reconciliation is a lengthy process that requires both chambers of Congress to pass a formal but rhetorical budget resolution that includes a relief bill. Final passage of a bill will take a week or more as every Republican who wants to can sponsor amendments to it that must all be voted down.

All of this is frustrating, but it's just the beginning of the next two years. Frustration should be directed at Senate Republicans who wouldn't vote for good policy even if the lives of their own constituents depend on it.

Both parties at not the same and Senate Democrats have never been opposed to voting for good GOP policies. It's just that the GOP has no good policies or much policy at all to speak of.