Weekly Policy Update: Congressional Democrats Use Budget Reconciliation, Creating Path for COVID Relief Package

On Friday, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget resolution, advancing the process of budget reconciliation that will allow Democrats to pass President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill without any support from the minority party.

Under budget reconciliation, a bill can be brought up for a vote and pass with a simple majority in the Senate, instead the usual 60 votes needed to pass legislation under the filibuster rule.

Democrats are using the budget reconciliation process at the same time that President Biden is negotiating with Republicans on the details of his legislation. Earlier in the week, ten Senate Republicans presented their alternative for a COVID relief bill, but there’s a big gap between the two proposals. With the option of reconciliation already underway, this puts a lot of pressure on Republicans to negotiate and offer something closer to what Democrats want. Otherwise, they will just pass the bill on a party-line vote through the reconciliation process.

What Comes Next?

The resolution that passed today directs House and Senate committees to start writing the budget bill and ensure it includes the provisions of President Biden’s COVID-19 package. Democrats hope to pass a COVID relief bill before March 14, when the current enhanced unemployment benefits are scheduled to expire.

Biden’s COVID relief bill, called the American Rescue Plan, directs roughly $400 billion to fighting the public health crisis, including a national vaccination program, scaling up testing and contact tracing, and providing paid sick leave to contain the virus’s spread. It also includes $15 billion in funding to create a new grant program for small business owners and a $35 billion investment in state, local, tribal and non-profit financing programs that make low-interest loans and provide venture capital to entrepreneurs.

Learn more about what’s in the American Rescue Plan.

Categories: CBSA News