It takes 60 votes to pass this organizing resolution. That means that McConnell is daring Democrats not to blow up the filibuster in a disagreement about whether they will promise not to blow up the filibuster. One more time: in order to pass this resolution without Republicans, Democrats would have to change the rules to allow it to pass by a simple 51-vote majority. That — in essence– would be eradicating the filibuster.
What last night told us about bipartisanship
All you need to know: After the meeting, Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine who is broadly viewed as one of the most “gettable” Republican senators are on this package released a statement to CNN saying “It seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope.”
In other words: if Biden and his team want this to be done quickly, they might have to pull the plug on their goal of getting 10 Republicans to sign on and move (AKA as soon as the next week or two) to the next step: a procedural budget maneuver that would only require 51 votes.
A quick refresher on that big old process: reconciliation
This is a process that requires the House and Senate Budget committees to first pass a budget with specific instructions to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees to write a Covid relief bill. The Senate would then have to pass that budget with 51 votes, but when they do that it will unlock a lengthy budget vote-a-rama in the Senate that will keep us up through the night as members offer hundreds of political amendments.
- Supporters of the proposal have to prove that the bill in question either increases revenues or reduces spending.
- That those changes are not merely “incidental.”
- That all the changes are within the jurisdiction of the committees outlined in the reconciliation instructions.
- Senators for their proposal have to achieve at least the same amount of savings as the House bill did. And you have to hit the same targets in the one-year and five-year windows.
- The proposal cannot have any impact on Social Security.
- The provision must not increase spending or decrease revenues outside of the budget window if you want it to be permanent.
There are already lengthy talks underway now in the House and Senate budget committees, Finance and Ways and Means about what provisions would be acceptable under those guidelines. There is a robust debate happening right now about whether or not some appropriations provisions would be acceptable (traditionally, appropriations haven’t been handled using reconciliation). There are debates happening about whether the $15 minimum wage would meet the criteria. There are a lot of very smart people on the Republican and Democratic side who have been wrestling with these questions for weeks now. And, that’s because there has always been an expectation that at some point, Democrats would have to pull the plug on bipartisan talks and do this without Republicans.
Not so fast
Moving ahead with reconciliation would still require Democrats to be completely united. That means that it can’t just be progressive members like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren leading this charge. Democrats need 100% unity. They need Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Maine Sen. Angus King, Arizona Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly. We don’t yet how those members would vote if the reconciliation process began to occur in the next week or two. Would they argue that there hasn’t been enough good faith negotiations with Republicans? We just don’t know right now.