Congressional Democrats plan to once again use budget reconciliation to get more legislation through Congress without Republican support.
Fox News reports that a Senate Democrat was recently “caught on a hot mic” saying that reconciliation would be needed to get the Democrats’ infrastructure package passed.
“Most likely, we’re going to have to use reconciliation,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) was heard telling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Cardin was also caught saying that, “ultimately, [the infrastructure package is] going to be put together similar to how the American Rescue Plan was put together.”
The “American Rescue Plan” is the recent coronavirus package that congressional Democrats managed to get passed. This $1.9 trillion bill has been criticized by Republicans on several grounds including that it is financially irresponsible and that most of the money it has little to do with the coronavirus.
Accordingly, the bill did not get much Republican support, but it wasn’t needed. That’s because the American Rescue Plan was passed using budget reconciliation.
Reconciliation is a process that lowers the 60-vote threshold normally needed to get bills passed in the Senate to a simple majority of 51. All that is required is for the bill that is under consideration to have a fiscal impact.
Bypassing the filibuster
What reconciliation amounts to is a work-around of the Senate filibuster, and that is clearly how congressional Democrats currently see it as well.
With the Democrats only narrowly controlling the Senate, there have been calls to eliminate the Senate filibuster so that they can push through radical legislation. The problem, though, is that the Democrats do not have the support needed to do this.
This is precisely why the Democrats are looking to make use of reconciliation, and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) is not even hiding this fact.
“Well, we are exploring the ways to use budget reconciliation, and we are trying to make it as flexible and as broad as possible so we can do many different kinds of things,” Schumer said on Monday.
If what Sen. Cardin says is true, then we should expect Democrats to try to use reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill. And, as with the recently-passed coronavirus bill, we ought to expect congressional Democrats to try to sneak as much as possible into the infrastructure bill.