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Senate parliamentarian says Dems can use filibuster-proof rules twice more

By
Don Jacobson
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer could choose to use the budget reconciliation process to avoid a GOP filibuster of President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan. File photo by Jonathan Ernst/UPI/Pool
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer could choose to use the budget reconciliation process to avoid a GOP filibuster of President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan. File photo by Jonathan Ernst/UPI/Pool | License Photo

April 5 (UPI) -- The Senate parliamentarian has ruled Democrats can use special rules to avoid Republican filibusters to pass two more major pieces of legislation with simple majority votes, Democratic leader Charles Schumer said Monday.

A spokesperson for Schumer told The Hill and Politico that Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has agreed with his interpretation of Section 304 of the Budget Act, meaning Democrats could potentially use the "budget reconciliation" process to pass the two pieces of President Joe Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan without any GOP support.

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The parliamentarian's ruling "allows Democrats additional tools to improve the lives of Americans if Republican obstruction continues," the aide said.

"While no decisions have been made on a legislative path forward using Section 304 and some parameters still need to be worked out, the parliamentarian's opinion is an important step forward that this key pathway is available to Democrats if needed."

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Senate Democrats used the same budget reconciliation strategy to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package last month, and hoped to expand its use to also get the infrastructure bill past the unanimous opposition of the Senate's 50 Republican members.

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A supermajority of 60 senators is needed to break a filibuster, meaning at least 10 GOP lawmakers must cross party lines to end the debate.

The parliamentarian's ruling is an unprecedented decision, representing the first time the interpreter of the Senate's arcane procedural rules has been asked to allow more than one reconciliation move in a single budget year.

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The process, however, comes with its own set of requirements, including at least 15 hours of Senate floor debate and a marathon vote in which any member can force a time-consuming roll call on any amendment.

While the ruling is "good news" for Schumer, it is only a first step toward using the reconciliation process to move Biden's plan forward, a Democratic aide told CNN.

"This was just the opening salvo in what will be a long and complicated process," the aide said.

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