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  • Ryan Wittler

Why is the Senate Parliamentarian in the News Again?


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In January, Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, gave Democrats the green light to use the budget reconciliation process to pass their $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. Under that process, budget-related legislation that meets certain conditions isn’t subject to a filibuster, and therefore can pass with 50 votes. How we got here: Parliamentarians advise the Senate on its rules and procedures. In April, MacDonough made headlines when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY) announced she gave Democrats permission to use the process twice in a single fiscal year, bucking conventional wisdom that the majority party is limited to using it once per year, and potentially giving Democrats a powerful tool to pass Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure package. Why it matters: Punchbowl News reported MacDonough’s office issued a follow-up on May 28 with additional guidance for Democrats. She ruled that, after this time, they cannot use budget reconciliation simply to avoid the regular legislative process again, meaning, this is the Democrats’ last use until 2022. Interpretation is varied, however, as some view the ruling as simply saying they shouldn’t use the process, not that they actually can’t. It remains to be seen how Democrats will move forward as a number of questions need to be answered.

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