Democrats are prepared to go straight to the floor as early as next week with a budget resolution, the first step in unlocking an arcane budget process known as reconciliation, which would allow for a pared-down package to pass with a simple majority, according to a source familiar.
While plans are still being worked out, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer did tell reporters earlier today that he had told members to be prepared for the possibility that they would have to vote on the resolution as soon as next week.
“The first step to pursuing Covid relief legislation through reconciliation would be to pass a budget resolution. And so, in keeping our options open, on our caucus call today, I informed senators to be prepared, that a vote on a budget resolution could come as early as next week,” Schumer said.
A reminder that a budget resolution is just the first step in a reconciliation process. Once the resolution passes, committees will still have to write Covid relief legislation. That will take weeks. This is just step one.
The source tells CNN that the current thinking is that the process to vote on the budget resolution would begin early to mid-next week. There would be hours of debate followed by what is known as a budget vote-a-rama later in the week. That is when lawmakers can introduce a series of wide-ranging and sometimes political amendments to force members of the opposite party to take tough votes. These vote-a-ramas can span hours and go through the night.
The budget resolution is expected to include instructions to multiple committees including HELP and Finance to write a Covid relief bill. The resolution could potentially include other committees as well including Banking and Small Business. The reason that this budget resolution would include instructions to so many committees is that unlike health care or tax reform that Republicans targeted with reconciliation, Biden’s Covid relief bill touches on many committees’ jurisdictions. In order to comply with the extensive reconciliation rules, the instructions have to go to the committees that have jurisdiction.
According to the source, Democrats are expected to make a push to include the $15 minimum wage in any Covid bill they write. It is a top priority even if it remains one of the proposals of Biden’s plan that experts argue could be more difficult to pass through reconciliation in part because of the strict rules that govern what you can actually do under reconciliation.
Schumer today remained hopeful that Republicans would work with Democrats to pass the broad relief package, but made it clear he would not wait for them for very long and that the budget resolution process could start in the meantime.
“We have to see what they say in the next few days. Some of their comments have admittedly been disheartening, some have rejected things right now and we’re always hopeful some will see the light,” Schumer said, adding that even on budget reconciliation, “Republicans can join us and vote for it, that's happened many times in the past.”