Reconciliation Can’t Fix Everything

If you missed Rachel Maddow last night, this brief segment is worth a look.

What she’s saying here is that because of a law passed during the Nixon Administration, it is possible to use the budget reconciliation process to bypass the filibuster and pass big bills with a 50 percent vote. This can’t be done multiple times a year; it can only be done with bills written as part of the budget. But since Congress didn’t pass a budget last year and hasn’t passed one this year, we’ve can use reconciliation twice this year.

There are limits to what kind of bill can be passed through reconciliation. The Congressional Budget Act permits using reconciliation for legislation that changes spending, revenues, and the federal debt limit, it says here. Senate rules allow senators to block provisions that are not connected directly to spending, revenue, and debt.

Maddow thinks the Democrats could use reconciliation to pass covid relief/stimulus and a jobs/infrastructure bill. But that leaves out other vital reforms we really, really need. Immigration reform and voting/election reform come to mind.

Do see Ron Brownstein, The Decision That Will Define Democrats for a Decade, at The Atlantic.

The party’s immediate political fate in the 2022 and 2024 elections is likely to turn mostly on whether Joe Biden can successfully control the coronavirus outbreak—restarting the economy and returning a sense of normalcy to daily life. But the contours of American politics just over that horizon, through 2030 and beyond, will be determined even more by whether Democrats can establish new national standards for the conduct of elections through a revised Voting Rights Act and sweeping legislation known as H.R. 1, which would set nationwide voting rules, limit “dark money” campaign spending, and ban gerrymandering of congressional districts. With both bills virtually guaranteed to pass the House, as they did in the last Congress, their fate will likely turn on whether Senate Democrats are willing to end the filibuster to approve them over Republican opposition on a simple-majority vote.

Agreed; there’s no way ten Republicans would be persuaded to vote for this.

That decision carries enormous consequences for the future balance of power between the parties: The number of younger and diverse voters participating in future elections will likely be much greater if these laws pass than if they don’t, especially with state-level Republicans already pushing a new round of laws making it tougher to vote based on Donald Trump’s discredited claims of election fraud in 2020. Given those stakes, the Democrats’ voting-rights agenda is quickly becoming a focal point of the pressure from left-leaning activists to end the filibuster. “Our grass roots will not accept the notion that we had good intentions, but we just failed” to pass these laws, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the Senate companion to H.R. 1, told me.

It could be catastrphic for the Dems if they don’t get election reform passed.

More from Greg Sargent:

Congressional Democrats are coalescing around a package of reforms that would dramatically expand access to voting by requiring states to implement automatic voter registration, extensive early voting and same-day registration. It would restrict voter suppression tactics and hurdles on vote-by-mail.

The reforms would also require nonpartisan redistricting commissions — a strike at the next round of GOP gerrymanders — while restoring protections in the Voting Rights Act and blocking states from disenfranchising felons. The reforms would go far in curtailing Republican counter-majoritarian tactics for years to come.

Sargent and Brownstein both think the future of the U.S. is on the line here. Republicans in many states are gearing up to intensity voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. And the Republicans are getting crazier by the minute. Further, thanks to the court-packing by Trump and McConnell, it’s likely voter suppression efforts will be sustained in court challenges.

I don’t think there’s any way to fix our election problems without eliminating the filibuster. And without fixing our election problems, the nutjob Right will continue to destroy America.

8 thoughts on “Reconciliation Can’t Fix Everything

  1. I've been thinking the same thing.

    That what happens before the Spring of next year will have all the impact in the world regarding this country's, and maybe even the globe's, future.

    That's why I wish Schumer had a very serious talk with his caucus about not breaking ranks on threatening to end the filibuster.

    You can get a lot more cooperation from Moscow Mitch & KKKrew if you threaten the turtle that the RepubliKKKLANS can either be along for the ride to "Build Back Better," or you'll filet the filibuster to shreds to get what you want, and make him cry in his shell for the rest of his miserable, treacherous life!


    As it now stands, both Manchin and Sinema have already said they'll never vote to end the filibuster – the ultimate Jim Crow legacy.


    Maybe we can do what RepubliKKKLANS always do:  Lie.  

    And then do what we want anyway.  RepubliKKKLANS have proven countless times that being hypocritical is rarely if ever fatal.  Of course, we don't have the superpower KKKonservatives do: Shamelessness.  But you know what?  We might feel bad for a day or two, but if the ends finally justify OUR means for a change, then isn't it worth it?!?  Why do I still feel guilty…

    One final thought on this subject: As the Q continues to ascend in KKKonservatopia, remember that Senate seats are not safely gerrymandered like House seats.  So Senators have to appeal to a wider swath of potential voters.

    My hope is that maybe, just maybe, as the KKKRAZY continues to spread like spilled mercury, a Mitt, a Murkowski, or somone like that, does what Senator Jeffries did in 2001: Switch from R, to I.

    The Senate was 50-50 then too, if I remember correctly.  And his switch was a very big deal.  

    Of course, if a R Senator did that, it'll make for a tough primary next time their term's up.  Guts don't come easy.

    So scoff if you will.

    But that's the political hope I hold in my heart right now.

  2. It's a really interesting example of Game Theory.  If the gods have blessed you with a very brief and very tenuous trifecta – majority in all three branches – what is the optimal strategy for you to make the best of your position?

    Brownstein's argument is extremely compelling, and yet you have to expend energy / political capital to bring relief (medical, economic) to the country.  I feel like we're in a very brief moment of sunshine before the storm.

  3. IMO, we're going to get a gift from the violent segments of Trump's base. The tin-foil wack-jobs in Congress won't even get a slap on the wrist for proposing that Pelosi be executed. They're going to clutch pearls when hostages are taken and the demand is the release and pardon of the insurrectionists. Republicans in Congress will try to placate the base by saying Democrats are at fault because we're persecuting poor protesters.

    The problem is that the base the House (in particular) is pitching to is going to get smaller and smaller as Republicans who are not sympathetic to kidnapping and murder go independent. And they are now. Essentially, the GOP jellyfish in Congress will disavow the violence while hugging the violent faction(s.) The more Republicans leave, the more concentrated the vitriol will become. 

    I'm not saying the conservatives who leave the GOP will vote for the Democrat. Many just won't vote. That's just as good. The nuttier the Republican clown car gets, the more big money will flee. And lobbyists know they can depend on Democrats as much as they depended on Moscow Mitch

    Excuse me for being cynical. If HB1 passes the US House it will ONLY be because K Street knows it will not leave the Senate. If we sweep the Senate races that are up for grabs in 2022, you won't see HB 1 in 2023. I'll push for passage as much as if I was a believer. But I'm not. Reform legislation has only passed at the state level when it was introduced as a referendum. The graft at the state level is chicken feed compared to the six billion per election cycle that the lobbyists take in and spread around in DC.  

    Teasing voters with campaign finance reform is a dangerous game. It's like teasing a teenage boy with a lot of leg or too much cleavage. Hi might not get any this year but he knows he wants it. So I'm all for the discussion of reform (and HR 1 is a good start) but I have too much respect for the lobbyist industry. 

    Reconciliation is the key to giving Biden the tools to succeed in distribution of the vaccines and prevent mass layoffs of government employees. Dealing with Covid wasn't in anybody's budget and most state and local governments can't borrow. Not giving relief to urban centers (like NYC) was Trumpian cruelty at its height. The problem is that we don't know now what we will need in the summer. So Dems need to go big and be flexible with the provision that unused funds will be returned. The courts allowed Trump a lot of leeway in reallocating funds for the wall. Biden should follow that path in a real emergency if he needs to.

  4. The gulag is correct as usual.  You can't gerrymander to get Senate seats.  Of course you can buy them, and they are cheaper in the least populated states.  Without a doubt Alaska has the lowest population density per square mile than any state in the union.  It is just not quite as handy as Wyoming, the current political hotbed.  Wyoming is handy enough that Liz Cheney can attract Republicans to the state in winter time to speak out, and outside too, against her because she is not sufficiently, as the gulag puts it, KKKRAZY. So how far can the Q-nuts, Proud Boys, and other assorted hate contingent groups go?  Can they own the Republican Party and make it do their bidding?  Or is this really a question of can the Republican Party civilize and acculturate their newly acquired base, the hoi polloi of the party?

    Hoi polloi is a word, or really two words in close proximity, which are frequently misunderstood.  The KKKRAZY people are the hoi polloi not the classy or the elite.  A lot of hoi polloi think if you call them hoi polloi it is a complement as a refined vocabulary is not a characteristic of the hoi polloi.  Republicans wanted and still want an expanded voter base, a bigger tent.   As we all know, or should know, one must be very carful what one wishes for.  They wanted  a voter base that was loyal and controllable, they got a voter base that is bossy and controlling. Not only that, they do not play well with others, especially the old guard.  The hoi polloi are not Regan Republicans and ignore most all the  commandments and especially the 11th one. This uncivil war will not be a pretty one, and there will be collateral damage.  It is one of many problems we have as a country and who knows what else is coming.  One would like to say it is a Republican problem and they need to solve it.  Unfortunately problem exploiters outnumber problem solvers in the party and the party's base, and the hoi polloi know that and exploit it.  The feral wing of the party is now too busy training the old guard for either of them to help out in running the country it seems.  They will find time to throw a spanner in the works or two.  Nasty chaps that they tend to be  – they always have time for that.  

    One other thing people often get backwards is the phrase; May you live in interesting times.  It is a curse not the opposite.  It does seem prophetic also.  We have been dealt lemons and a lot of them.  We just have to make the best we can out of it.  Oh, and a happy ending is not guaranteed.  Who told the Republicans that the way to take the country backwards was to suck up to and empower backwards people?  Dumb  idea. 

  5. This just comes down to the democrats needing to do as much as they can with what they'll have to work with in this legislative session, using the successful results of such efforts to counter GOP voter suppression efforts in order to motivate younger voters to come out for them in 2022 to overwhelm "voter fraud" at the polls, as was done in 2020.  This means covid relief checks, $15 hour minimum, some type of relief or assistance on student loans that can be designed and packaged as budgetary items so they can be voted on in reconciliation.  Anything they can do to help citizens struggling with health care costs as a direct, or indirect result of covid that could be packaged as reconciliation would be popular too.  And of course, if sometime between now and 2022, we reach a point where masks are no longer required, thanks to vaccination and other efforts to control and mitigate the impact of the virus, a goal Biden is already focused on, even better.  Imagine the day, prior to the 2022 mid terms, when Biden goes on the TV and says, "take of your masks!" and how that will resonate among voters.

    Americans are famous for their gnat-like attention span, but given we're talking only having to hold their attention for less than two years, to 2022, these are the kinds of policies that will not just be abstract, one shot deals but will keep giving over that period of time and beyond, with measurable impact in people's lives.  Then, learning from the past, remind them every chance "we" get that these things were done and oh, BTW, are you better off today than you were two years ago?

    Democrats goal should be to use this legislative session so that it can be summed up for voters this way: while republicans were busy focusing on Jewish lasers, violence, false flags and threatening members with guns, democrats are busy addressing real issues and making a difference in people's lives.  

  6. Forgot to add to that last paragraph: "and if you want more of what we just gave you, vote those suckers out!"


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