Excellent news for Senate Democrats and for America: Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has ruled that budget reconciliation can be used another time this fiscal year for another spending and taxation bill, meaning that despite my misgivings, the American Jobs Act may actually have a chance.
On Monday night, the Senate parliamentarian — an in-house rules expert — determined that Democrats would be able to do a third budget reconciliation bill this year, a massive development that gives lawmakers more room to pass legislation without Republican support.
Already, Democrats had the ability to do two budget reconciliation bills: one focused on fiscal year 2021 and one focused on fiscal year 2022. Unlike most other bills, budget measures can pass with just 51 votes, instead of 60, which means Democrats are able to usher through the legislation they want if all 50 members of their caucus are onboard. (With the American Rescue Plan, for instance, 50 Democrats were able to approve the $1.9 trillion package as part of the FY2021 budget bill, even though no Republicans backed it.)
“The Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions,” said a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in a statement. “This confirms the Leader’s interpretation of the Budget Act and allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues.”
With the new decision from the parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, Democrats can now do a third budget reconciliation bill, which means they can push through more ambitious measures as long as they are related to taxing and spending. The decision is based on MacDonough’s interpretation of Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, which allows lawmakers to revise a budget resolution before the end of the fiscal year that it covers. Given her decision, Democrats can now edit the 2021 budget resolution they already passed, and include instructions for another bill.
Schumer’s spokesperson also noted that “no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out.”
Budget reconciliation has its limits: It can’t be used for policies like voting rights reforms or gun control, but it’s still a helpful tool that Democrats have already leveraged to pass a huge expansion of the child tax credit, enhanced unemployment aid, and another round of stimulus checks.
Democrats now have another opportunity to advance parts of their agenda that Republicans would otherwise block. And the decision to push for a workaround shows how limited Democrats’ other options are to pass their agenda.
The bad news is that the For The People Act is pretty much dead and has zero chance of passage still. Republicans aren't about to give away their white supremacy advantage in controlling voting in a majority of states and Senate races.
Cracking the filibuster like an egg is still 100% necessary in order to save American democracy.