The general assumption in Washington has been that Democrats could potentially move two substantial economic packages this year using budget reconciliation, the legislative maneuver that allows the Senate to avoid the filibuster and pass legislation with a simple majority. But according to a report in Politico Playbook Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) thinks he may have found a way to pass a third budget bill this year, giving Democrats one more opportunity to “go big” on the kind of investments they want to make in infrastructure, green energy and the social safety net, without worrying about Republican opposition.
In addition to spending packages for fiscal year 2021 – passed earlier this as the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – and fiscal year 2022, which begins in October, Schumer believes he may be able to unlock a third budget bill this year by taking advantage of some arcane language in the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
What it says: Section 304 of the Budget Act states: “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.”
What it means (maybe): Schumer’s staff has reportedly presented a case to the Senate parliamentarian that the language allows lawmakers to revise the existing budget bill for 2021 and send a new set of instructions relating to spending, revenue and the public debt – effectively creating at least one more spending package that can be passed via reconciliation this year.
The bottom line: There’s been no decision yet on the legality of the move, and Schumer hasn’t yet determined his strategy, but if it works, it could open the door for Democrats to pass another round of significant changes in spending and taxation this year.