House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects the House and Senate to adopt a budget next week that would allow Democrats to later pass President Joe Biden’s economic plan without any Republican votes.
“By the end of the week, we’ll be finished with the budget resolution, which will be about reconciliation, if needed,” she said Thursday at her weekly press conference, referring to an optional process that allows bills spun out from the budget to pass the Senate with only 51 votes.
“I hope we don’t need it, but if needed we will have it,” she said. Pelosi’s comments came after House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth told MarketWatch Wednesday the budget would be on the floor next week and warned attempts to include a minimum wage boost as part of reconciliation could hurt Democratic support.
Pelosi said the House will pass the budget and send it over to the Senate, and, if the Senate changes it, pass it again. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer warned members earlier in the week they may have to stay in Washington into the weekend for votes.
Adopting the budget would allow filibuster-proof bills to be drafted afterwards if needed, but the bills that would emerge from the reconciliation resolution would in theory give Republicans and Democrats more time to hash out a bipartisan approach that Democrats say they want and that Biden has touted as a priority for his $1.9 trillion economic plan.
Pelosi said she had not given up on getting Republicans on board, even as many in the Senate have given a thumbs down to the price tag of the Biden plan.
“Well, we have to be ready. And I do think that we have more leverage to get cooperation on the other side if they know we have an alternative, as well,” she said.
However, the reconciliation route may be hard to avoid once members of Congress vote on a budget, which will commit them to specific spending, revenue and deficit targets in the next five or 10 years.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate would “begin the process” of considering a budget as early as next week.
In the Senate in particular, debate on the budget will include vote-a-rama, a daylong series of quick votes – which can pass by simple majority – on amendments offered by any senator and that are often merely symbolic.
Senators on both sides of the aisle in general hate vote-a-rama, as it forces fast votes they know may be used against them politically later.
Republicans say using the reconciliation will mean they won’t help pass Biden’s coronavirus plan because they won’t have any input.
“They don’t want a sort of 80% solution. They’re looking for a 100% solution, which nobody gets around here,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican.
Cornyn also warned that stretching the strict rules around the reconciliation procedure, which is meant for legislation affecting budget issues only and not for increasing the budget deficit in later years, would be seen by Republicans as the same same killing the filibuster, which allows the minority party to stall legislation unless it gets 60 votes.
“Now we’re hearing rumors about trying to break the reconciliation rules to pass things like a $15 minimum wage and so forth, which are clearly in violation of the reconciliation rules,” Cornyn said.
“They could try to use the nuclear option there,” he said, referring to one idea that has been floated in Democratic circles of having senators vote to overrule any procedural rulings against Democrats regarding items in the eventual reconciliation bills.
“But that would just that would that would destroy the senate as an institution, just as bad as eliminating the filibuster,” he said.