Senate Parliamentarian Just Gave Schumer Bad News

( Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democrats were just given some bad news this week.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate Parliamentarian, ruled that Democrats will only be able to use the process of budget reconciliation one more time this year. Democrats had thought they’d be able to use the process two more times in 2021 as a way to force through President Joe Biden’s liberal agenda.

Now, though, Democrats are going to be forced to re-think potential strategies for how they can still get what they want.

Budget reconciliation is a process that allows one party to avoid the Senate filibuster rule and effectively push through legislation without the support of the other party. Democrats used the process to pass Biden’s last economic stimulus package, even though no Republicans in the Senate supported it.

Typically speaking, 60 votes are needed in the Senate to pass a bill and avoid the filibuster.

MacDonough said that a change to the 2021 budget resolution couldn’t be discharged automatically from the Senate Budget Committee. This would force Democrats to get at least one Republican Senator to vote with them on the 11-11 panel. That seems unlikely.

Effectively, this ruling means Democrats will have to choose which of Biden’s progressive plans are most important to them. They won’t simply be able to pass through both the American Jobs Plan ($2.3 trillion) and the American Families Plan ($1.8 trillion) without Republican support.

This doesn’t even take into consideration other progressive plans that Senate Republicans are unlikely to support, including expanding Medicare.

What Democrats would have to try to do is package everything together into one massive bill to try to force it through budget reconciliation. That alone may be difficult, though, as there are strict rules for what can and can’t go through the process.

In guidance that she sent to the Senate, MacDonough wrote that automatically discharging revisions to a budget resolution that comes from the Budget Committee onto the Senate floor risks “eroding the budget process.” She said it’s a scenario that could result in the budget committee churning out “meaningless, stop-gap measures or shells for future consideration.”

She wrote in guidance to the Senate:

“That kind of chaos was not at all what was intended with auto-discharge. Rather, the purpose of auto-discharge is to provide an incentive for committee compliance with the law and to provide a remedy when compliance with an through the mandatory processes of the [Congressional Budget Act] have not been met.

“Auto-discharge is not appropriate for a 304 resolution.”

The only way for Democrats to pass revisions to that budget resolution, then is to get a majority of the members on the Senate Budget Committee to vote for it. Because there is a 50-50 split in the Senate, though, Democrats don’t have that extra seat in all committees, which would have allowed them to get that simple majority and pass multiple budget reconciliation budgets in one year.

Too bad for Schumer and the Democrats. They’re just going to have to work toward bipartisan legislation now.