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Chuck Schumer floats ‘magical parliamentary trick’ to give Democrats more 51-vote victories

A few key Senate Democrats don’t appear willing to end the legislative filibuster, leaving most of President Biden’s legislative priorities at the far edge of probability. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) thinks he may have found “a magical parliamentary trick” to get Democrats at least one more legislative win in the 50-50 Senate, Politico reports. It involves budget reconciliation and an obscure section of the 1974 Congressional Budget Act.

“If you know one thing about the arcane subject of budget reconciliation, it’s that it can be used to pass legislation through the Senate with just 51 votes,” and “if you know two things, it’s the simple majority rule and that reconciliation can be used only once every fiscal year,” Politico explains. Democrats passed their $1.9 trillion stimulus package through the unused fiscal 2021 budget, meaning they can use reconciliation one more time this year, with the 2022 budget.

But if the Senate parliamentarian agrees with Schumer’s interpretation of Section 304 of the 1974 budget law, Democrats can amend last year’s budget to pass more legislation through reconciliation. “It’s not clear how many additional reconciliation opportunities this theory would open up,” Axios reports, but it would add at least one more shot at sidestepping the filibuster this year alone.

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“No final decision has been made on the legislative strategy,” a Schumer aide told Axios. “Schumer wants to maximize his options to allow Senate Democrats multiple pathways to advance President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.”

If Democrats do pursue the Section 304 strategy, “the Senate parliamentarian will once again be the most powerful person in Washington,” Politico reports. “It goes without saying that this is a bizarre way to govern. Nobody would design a system like this, where to pass even popular legislation senators seek to game a rickety budgeting process and the most important Hill staffers are now the experts on these arcane rules devised in 1974 for the purpose of deficit reduction.” You can read the relevant portion of Section 304 at Politico.