WASHINGTON, D.C. – By now, you’ve probably heard the word “reconciliation.” It has taken over Capitol Hill.
But what is it exactly, how does it work, and what does it mean for you?
In short, the budget reconciliation process is when the majority party in the Senate wants to pass something by a simple 51-vote majority and avoid the 60-vote threshold for the filibuster.
In this case, Democrats want to avoid Republican opposition for their expansive domestic spending bill. The way that works right now is all 48 Democrats and the two independents (Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King) who caucus with them need to agree to the bill. Vice President Kamala Harris would be the tiebreaker.
Throughout this process, it’s easy to wonder why can’t Democrats pass this bill when they have the majority? To start, two moderate senators – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema – have concerns about the bill’s cost and content.
“Both Manchin and Sinema have indicated they are not happy with the $3.5 trillion price tag,” explained Todd Belt, director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C. “Both have them have also been unhappy with the taxes that are going to have to be raised to fund that, particularly the corporate taxes. Manchin is particularly unhappy with some of the environmental aspects of that bill.”
The biggest thing to know about reconciliation is senators can only change or add laws that involve tax and spending levels, and the debt limit. That’s why issues like immigration reform have been removed from the bill, at least for now.
Some of you have also asked why can’t Democrats raise the debt ceiling and avoid defaulting on the debt on their own? They could add that into the reconciliation bill. But with an October 18 deadline to raise the debt ceiling and disagreements on the reconciliation bill, they are up against the clock right now.
Both the House and Senate must pass a reconciliation bill before it goes to the President’s desk.