More Chances to Reconcile
Dems get a golden opportunity to break fascist stonewalling
April 6th, 2021
The 1974 Congressional Budget Act had a then-obscure provision in it that allowed the Senate, once a year, to consider a bill involving revenue and/or spending to be fast-tracked through the Senate. Debate would be limited to twenty hours, and required only a simple majority for passage. In an era of bipartisanship and when using the filibuster meant standing and talking against the bill for hours or even days, it didn’t seem at all important. The main item of interest was that of limiting debate to twenty hours, ten on each side. It was then known as “the fast track bill.”
It gained prominence for the majority vote provision when Obama’s Senate used it to pass the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s Senate used it to give a nearly two trillion dollar tax cut to the extremely rich and major corporations.
It was the crafty Chuck Schumer who noticed that not only could the reconciliation process apply this year, but retroactively to last year, since no budget was submitted by the inept and rapidly fading Trump administration.
Democrats seized the opportunity, getting the Covid Relief Package passed on a vote of 51-50. By itself, it was a monumental effort, the biggest piece of public-interest legislation since the days of the New Frontier. In addition to funding the fight to end the pandemic, it pulled a third of American children out of poverty, and improved the standard of living for tens of millions of families. It was immensely popular, with even a plurality of Republican voters supporting it. Of course, not a single Republican Congressional voted for it, although a few did try to take credit for it anyway.
The second reconciliation bill due up next is the Infrastructure bill, now dubbed The American Jobs Plan. It’s a slightly bigger bill, two trillion, and is mostly meant for repair, restructuring and modernization of the infrastructure—energy, water, sewage, transportation, education and communications. No Republican supports it, and Democrat Manchin of West Virginia is upset that it will be funded by rescinding the Trump tax cut because society is there to serve the economy, goddammit, and not the other way around. Biden and Schumer are doubtlessly taking a carrot-and-stick approach to Manchin now, to get him on board. Biden, aware of the fact that the GOP is rapidly collapsing, in the political equivalent of a failed psychotic decompensating, plans to invite Republicans to hear their concerns and persuade at least one to stop marching in lockstep with the demented felon who took over their party.
The nations infrastructure has been largely ignored for over 50 years, and it will take a lot more than two trillion dollars to bring America back to first-world status. But it’s a large step in the right direction.
Then, last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, she broke the news that the Senate Parliamentarian and Chuck Schumer had found an obscure provision in the Senate rules that apparently make it possible to have TWO MORE reconciliation bills this year.
To quote the story from MSN: “Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s spokesman told CNN in a statement Monday that ‘the Parliamentarian has advised that a revised budget resolution may contain budget reconciliation instructions. 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.’”
Here’s the language the parliamentarian ruling is based upon, from the Congressional Budget Act: Sec.304. At any time after the concurrent resolution on the budget for a fiscal year has been agreed to pursuant to section 301, and before the end of such fiscal year, the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.
I’m glad we were able to clear that up. Seriously, I’m having a hard time making sense of it, but if I am reading it correctly, it means that when a Reconciliation bill is offered up, the Senate may add on a second such bill, so long at it pertains to or supplements the first bill in some way, and of course, like all reconciliation bills, be subject to the Byrd Act. Senator Harry Byrd was concerned about the amount of pork in reconciliation bills, and so they are limited to revenue and budget, and may not pertain to Social Security in any way.
So there is a huge opportunity for the Dems to continue bringing America into the 21st century and avoid some of the damage caused by the GOP self destructing. (Three examples of how far gone they are just from yesterday: Mitch McConnell, staunch defender of Citizens United, snarled at Coke and Delta and other companies that corporations should just shut up and stay out of politics. In the meanwhile, the GOP declared war on … baseball. You know, that thing with the bats and Dustin May’s hair. Marco Rubio seems to think MLB are stooges of China for some obscure reason. And because he’s annoyed at Amazon for whatever, he wants the union to win the Alabama election. The mind boggles.)
So: two more possible reconciliation bills.
The first one is easy enough: addendum to the American Recovery Act: Medicare for All. Everyone gets Medicare. No “window” no schedule D. We will save millions of lives and trillions of dollars. In any non-fascist state, it would be a no brainer. It should be a no brainer in America, too.
Unfortunately, the Help America Vote Act is outside of the limitations of the Reconciliation Act. But there is a way around that.
I propose a Public Campaign Funding and Voting Infrastructure Bill. Public funding would make up not less than 80% of funding for any political campaign, the amount being a function of the size of the population the office being sought represents. No person could donate more than $500 to any individual running for that office, and must be resident in that office’s zone. Companies and corporations would be limited to $1,000 dollars. Any office-seeker could have access to a pod cast.
Pursuant to that, the US would devise a voting infrastructure. ALL persons eligible to vote would be issued a national Voter ID free of cost, and would be able to use said ID to vote. E-transfer via the card to physical ballots would facilitate absentee and mail-in voting, and voters would have the ability to view their votes and check for accuracy before sending the ballots in. We could rid ourselves of Citizens United and Jim Crow laws in one fell swoop.
Biden has promised to “go big.” He’s done a good job of it so far, but much more needs to be done, and he has just been handed a golden opportunity.
Have at it, Joe.