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Budget Battles Brew in Congress

by Countable | 11.8.18

With Democrats set to control the House and Republicans the Senate when the 116th Congress convenes in January, the budgeting process will be the battleground for many of the ideological disputes that play out in the divided legislature.

Absent a major agreement on an issue like tax or welfare reform, each chamber will likely pass budget resolutions outlining their party’s policy priorities and may include reconciliation instructions to achieve them, which was the process used to enact the GOP tax cuts and Obamacare.

While those ideological budget blueprints are unlikely to gain much traction in the next Congress, if either party were to claim control of both chambers and the White House in 2020 they could serve as a preview of the next big battle over healthcare or taxes.

What is budget reconciliation?

Budget reconciliation is a process that allows Congress to expedite the consideration of tax, entitlement spending reform, and debt limit bills that can be passed with a simple majority in both chambers. It starts with the passage of a budget resolution that contains instructions for committees to produce bills that achieve targets laid out in the resolution (eg reducing the deficit by a given amount over 10 years), which are then combined by the Budget Committee into a single bill.

Reconciliation bills have to comply with the “Byrd rule”, named for former-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), which prohibit the inclusion of provisions that:

  • Are extraneous based on the determination of the Senate Parliamentarian and the presiding officer.
  • Modify Social Security.
  • Increase deficits outside of the budget window, which is usually 10 years but can be any duration longer than the minimum of 5 years.

Provisions violating the Byrd rule can be included if 60 senators vote to waive it, but absent that a reconciliation bill must be given a “Byrd bath” to cleanse it of violations. (Removed provisions are known as “Byrd droppings”.)

Once a reconciliation bill reaches the Senate floor debate is limited to 20 hours, unless it’s a conference report containing a compromise between House and Senate versions of the bill, in which case debate is limited to 10 hours for both chambers. A simple majority vote in each chamber is all that’s required to pass a reconciliation bill.

What about reconciliation in the current Congress?

So far in the 115th Congress, reconciliation was used to bring up the GOP healthcare reform bill that passed the House but stalled in the Senate, in addition to the more successful Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which ultimately became law.

Congress hasn’t approved a budget resolution for the current fiscal year (FY2019), which it would have to do to use reconciliation in the lame duck session ― a task that, while possible, would be extremely difficult given the limited time left in the legislative year.

But that hasn’t stopped sitting members from proposing bills to take further advantage of the reconciliation process and to curtail its use.

Rep. Bradley Byrne’s (R-AL) 50 Votes for the Wall Act would allow the budget reconciliation process to be used to create a $25 billion Border Wall and Security Trust Fund, thus allowing one of President Trump’s priorities to be fully funded with a simple majority. The enactment of a FY2019 budget resolution with relevant reconciliation instructions would have to occur before it could enjoy the benefits of reconciliation.

Sen. Mazie Hirono’s (D-HI) Medicare and Medicaid Protection Act would prevent the budget reconciliation process from being used to raise the Medicare eligibility age, privatize Medicare or turn it into a voucher system, block grant Medicaid or impose per-capita spending caps on state plans, or to reduce the ability of states to provide health coverage under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Such changes would require 60 votes, much like changes to Social Security under the current reconciliation rules.

Tell your reps what you think about the budget reconciliation process and share your thoughts below!

— Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: Architect of the Capitol via Flickr / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(54)
  • Craig
    Voted Sad
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Work together

    Like (21)
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  • Frank
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Just tax the wealthy first & fairly & then work on a budget, otherwise the republican senate is just blowing smoke which is typical

    Like (14)
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  • Brian
    Voted Apathetic
    11/09/2018
    ···

    The GOP has spent the past 8 years showing that they intend to spend freely and cut taxes, but will not attempt to balance the budget in any meaningful way. Perhaps the Democratic House can find ways to rein in the spending and increase accountability for the excessive spending while also channeling money towards initiatives that benefit all Americans, not just the wealthy and the military.

    Like (7)
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  • Marc
    Voted Happy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Stick to your guns dems

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  • Michael
    Voted Apathetic
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Now if the Democrats would stop bending over and taking it from Republicans in the name of 'decorum', 'civility', or 'process', we might actually get something useful done. Grow a fucking spine, Pelosi.

    Like (5)
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  • Phillip
    Voted Happy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Cut the out of control payments to military contractors for a start.

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  • Danny
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Fix social security and put our money back in the fund. That’s our money NOT an entitlement from the government. Use congressional pensions to pay our money back!

    Like (3)
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  • Phil
    Voted Sad
    11/09/2018
    ···

    When did 'ask not what you can do for your country but what your country can do for you' go the way of the dodo?

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  • KyleCorley
    Voted Happy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    We need to get a budget that we actually stick too. A balanced budget will help lower our debt. Normal everyday Americans have to live daily with a balanced budget to make sure they don't go into debt. Right now nothing is happening because of our debt, but just remember WWII was started because Germany was in debt and couldn't pay countries back following WWI.

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  • Larry
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Cut the budget 10% per year until the budget is balanced. Then 10% a year until the debt is paid off. But of course, this will never happen. As Mark Twain said long ago "Asking Congress to reduce their authority is like asking a hog to slaughter itself"

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  • Caren
    Voted Sad
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Well this could be an extremely terrible state of affairs. If Democrats get the House and Senate as well as the presidency then this country will go to hell in a hand basket! In fact, it will be the complete and total destruction of this country. We can definitely expect this if the Democrats behave like the last president who raised the debt ceiling more than once and spent more money putting the country more deeply in debt. Couple that with socialized healthcare and we are certain to see financial collapse.

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  • Poli.Sci
    Voted Apathetic
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Here we see the ideological battles fought between Republicans and Democrats for their budgets. On the Democrat side, you see an influx of spending to promote universal healthcare and a slow progress towards free college tuition and a minimum wage hike, which came as promises by multiple new and young socialist Democrats to Congress in their victory speeches. On the other hand, you see the Republicans who believe Fiscal budgeting and low taxes promote a better atmosphere while promoting actual Federal policy instead of having the National Congress used for domestic purposes. To my Rep and my Senator, who happen to be different ideologically, I urge both to realize that the Congress they sit in is meant to be an arbiter and helper to domestic problems, not a solution. The Congress they sit in is meant to look outward to foreign policy, whether that be in trade or funding for certain foreign programs, protecting our borders and allies, promoting an actual immigration system and not giving handouts, and promoting a better atmosphere with proper funding to our veterans. The rest is left to the states, who can decide for themselves if they wish to have all the extras. But I refuse to vote in favor of tax hikes to help those who are riding the system and to promote the merit system once again for all aspects of life because life is not a free ride and not everyone should get a participation trophy.

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  • Marylynn
    11/09/2018
    ···

    With all the bluster from the GOP over the past 10 years and counting, they've done nothing to balance the budget. As a matter of fact they've shut down the gov't. on more than one occasion. So much for the so-called fiscally conservative party. Their tax cut for the top 1% has cost us all a fortune, we can't afford. Hopefully, come January, the Democrats will show the GOP how to get things done. I'm glad that I don't balance my budget the way our lawmakers do, I'd never get out from under the debt. Perhaps they'll hold cabinet members accountable for their flagrant abuse of spending money on themselves, while bilking taxpayers out of millions.

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  • Chips
    Voted Apathetic
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Cut all Corporate welfare, remove the cap on Social Security, and increase taxes so that we can rebuild our infrastructure and lead the world like we are supposed too

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  • Christopher
    Voted Apathetic
    11/09/2018
    ···

    It’s time to restore financial responsibility to this budget

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  • Lance
    Voted Happy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Both houses need to work together first thing to to make it unlawful to add riders to bills and need to use the line Item veto

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  • Teddy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    I believe states that ignore current immigration laws and claim to be sanctuary cities for people they ultimately want to employ for half the price and also claim they can't pay them more until we raise minimum citizen wages and then be upset when they're notified they finally are also paying for their state tax deductions if more than standard to help fund anything they've claimed was worth buying $trillions worth of their own long term IOUs and give the banks the cash forever 0.1% int forever. Democrats will want health care reform and stage just enough to pass it and all the rest will pretend to be drug kicking and screaming with 50-300 people breaking the law to prevent a justice from practicing law they're so passionate and respectful of to only know they're somehow instantly needed to mobilize somewhere and forget their rights and beliefs are only equal at most to anyone else's not choosing violence to silence others rights that may just hurt feelings but not permanent damage with property and physical damage tending to be in places where only legal citizens can not legally carry concealed weapons to defend theirselves from future similar moblike activity that's slowly preventing desire to interreact publicly and ultimately hindering economic growth and empowering radical irrational groups to interpret constitional rights as well as Isis does the Quran.

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  • J
    Voted Happy
    11/09/2018
    ···

    It’s time fora dialogue instead of capitulation to the dictator.

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  • Cody
    11/09/2018
    ···

    Why does everyone jump to “tax the rich!!” Like 47% of Americans don’t already pay $0 in income tax. Like the richest 20% of Americans don’t already pay 87% of all federal tax collected

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  • David
    11/09/2018
    ···

    The deficit is an issue but there are bigger issues to deal with such as campaign finance reform and he climate

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