Senate Democrats Find Way to Bypass Filibuster Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks about Senate Democrats legislative accomplishments as he holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Getty Images)
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 08:59 AM
Senate Democrats can use reconciliation several times in one fiscal year to bypass the filibuster and push through legislation, according to the chamber's parliamentarian, but still, not all of President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan may not qualify for the party line vote under Senate rules.
Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled on the reconciliation issue, which means the infrastructure plan could be treated as a revision of budget legislation allowed under Senate rules, earlier this week.
This would bypass a Republican filibuster that would require the measure to need 60 votes to pass, rather than a simple majority of 51 votes, but several of its provisions, such as for a clean energy standard, could have to be removed or amended before final legislation could pass under the reconciliation measure, reports The Wall Street Journal.
And with Republicans opposing potential corporate tax increases, the measure is not likely to pass under the usual 60-vote threshold that is required for most legislation.
With the Senate divided at 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, it is difficult for the left to pass bills that require a 60-vote majority. In the case of the infrastructure bill, even with reconciliation, the bill as written may have difficulty in passing even a party-line vote, as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., does not approve in an increase in corporate taxes to fund it.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio told The Wall Street Journal that he expects several other measures favored by his party will not be allowed under Senate rules, including a plan to bring back earmarks that allow lawmakers to target projects for funding.
However, he said he thinks lawmakers should ignore the so-called "Byrd Rule," named in honor of late Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., which prevents reconciliation bills from having provisions that do not pertain to the budget.
He said it is "absurd" for the parliamentarian, "a bureaucrat," to be "channeling a dead senator" with such rulings.
It is up to MacDonough, as the parliamentarian, to determine if proposed legislation meets the standards under reconciliation, and Democrat leaders have declined to overrule her.
One of her rulings was to determine a minimum-wage raise provision, which many Democrats seek, could not be included in the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 aid package if it was to be pushed through under reconciliation.
Meanwhile, Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Republicans are open to passing a smaller infrastructure bill that does not include "a whole lot of other things" that are not related to the nation's infrastructure needs.
Biden has said he wants a bipartisan infrastructure bill, but Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Sunday she'll be willing to push the measure through without Republican support if that doesn't happen.
Democrat Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the chamber's Finance Committee, however, says he is happy with the parliamentarian ruling, because Americans "want bold action to address our country’s many challenges, and Democrats now have more options to overcome Republican obstruction and get things done."