While the Senate works on confirming President Biden’s cabinet nominations, the House will be in session beginning today, and they will stay in session until they pass the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief/economic stimulus bill. In the Senate, the bill will be considered under “reconciliation.” Reconciliation allows Congress to pass legislation dealing with spending, revenue (taxes), and/or debt as long as the legislation is reported out of the relevant committees in accordance with instructions contained in a budget resolution passed by the House and Senate. A budget resolution authorizing the use of reconciliation for the coronavirus bill passed earlier this month. Bills passed under reconciliation are not subject to a filibuster, so it can pass the Senate with just 51 votes. However, reconciliation is limited to items having a “significant” effect on the budget. Assuming every Senate Democrat votes for the COVID bill, the Senate could pass it with just Democratic support. The Senate Parliamentarian makes the final decision as to what does and does not have a significant effect on the budget. It is doubtful that, for example, the proposals to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which is included in the bill, can be passed under reconciliation if the Senate Parliamentarian has final say on the matter. It’s worth noting the Senate can overrule the Parliamentarian by a majority vote, which would disregard Senate rules and traditions.
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