April 6, 2021
By: NATHANIEL BALLANTYNE
TRUENEWSBLOG — Hours after a top Senate official informed Democrats that they could potentially have more chances to use a complex budget maneuver to push through their agenda without any Republican votes, Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, was on television outlining the breadth of liberal ambitions.
Democrats aimed to enact President Biden’s plan to transform the nation’s infrastructure, he said, provide for paid family and medical leave, and expand health care, potentially including Medicare.
The musing by Mr. Sanders, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, reflected the high hopes that Democrats have that a new ruling from the chamber’s parliamentarian will open more avenues for them to push a wide range of their priorities through a Congress where they have precariously small majorities.
“The devil is in the details, and we don’t know the details yet — that’s going have to be negotiated, and better understood,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview on Tuesday. “It gives us the possibility of going forward with more than one piece of legislation, and that’s obviously advantageous to what we’re trying to do.”
All of it could be easier thanks to the parliamentarian’s opinion issued Monday that the budget resolution passed in February could be reopened to include at least one more round of reconciliation, which allows for measures governing taxes and spending to be protected from filibusters. That could give Democrats more chances to steer around Republican opposition and push through major budgetary legislation.
The process is fraught with challenges, including strict rules that limit what can be included, and Democrats would still have to muster 50 votes for any proposal, a tall order for some of their more expansive ideas.
But the newfound leeway could ultimately ease the way for some of their most ambitious endeavors. It could allow them to break down some of Mr. Biden’s proposals, including his two-part infrastructure plan to address both an ailing public works system and the economic inequities facing the nation’s work force, into smaller, more palatable pieces.
Activists have also urged Mr. Biden to consider more remote possibilities, like using reconciliation to provide a pathway to citizenship for some of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, including farmworkers, essential workers and those brought to the country as children known as Dreamers.
It remains unclear how and when Democrats might take advantage of the ruling. But pressure is mounting for them to push the boundaries of what the ruling party can do when it controls both congressional chambers and the White House.
In an interview on Tuesday, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said the decision marked “an important step, and it adds an extra arrow in our quiver.” But he declined to disclose how exactly the ruling would impact his legislative strategy going forward, including passage of a massive public-works plan Mr. Biden released last week.
“We’ll have to get together as a caucus and discuss things — as we always do — about the best place to use it,” he said.
The initial guidance from Elizabeth MacDonough, the parliamentarian, seems to have given Mr. Biden and his congressional allies at least one more chance to use the reconciliation process before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, as well as more opportunities in the next fiscal year. Ms. MacDonough told lawmakers on Monday evening that Senate rules appear to allow a revision to the budget plan they used to pass the $1.9 trillion stimulus law that would enable them to add new elements under another round of the fast-track reconciliation process, according to Mr. Schumer.