KEY POINTS

  • Pelosi and Schumer filed a joint budget resolution on Monday
  • The budget reconciliation process will allow Democrats to pass any bill
  • Schumer is shoring up support to get the 50 votes needed to pass the relief package

Senate Democrats are working to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal without GOP support by using a controversial but powerful procedural tool known as budget reconciliation. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday announced their filing of a joint budget resolution. The measure is the first step needed to enact the budget reconciliation process. 

“It makes no sense to pinch pennies when so many Americans are suffering,” Schumer said. “The risk of doing too little is far greater than the risk of doing too much. There is nothing in this process that will preclude it from being bipartisan. We welcome bipartisan input.”

What is the budget reconciliation bill?

Budget reconciliation was introduced in 1974 as part of the Congressional Budget Act. The bill provides a fast-track process for passing legislation related to spending, taxes and debt through a simple majority vote. The reconciliation process allows lawmakers to ignore the 60-vote threshold needed for moving a bill forward. 

Democrats currently hold 50 seats in the 100-seat Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote. That means Democrats are able to get enough votes to use the resolution to pass legislation. 

Senate Democrats are hoping to use the budget reconciliation process to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion proposal, which would extend the government’s weekly unemployment insurance, give schools funding, and provide millions of American individuals and families $1,400 stimulus checks

The budget conciliation process may also be employed to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. 

"We must raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour through budget reconciliation by a simple majority vote in the Senate,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said Tuesday.

How will the Democrats use the budget reconciliation process for the coronavirus stimulus package?

After having introduced the budget resolution on Monday, Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer are now expected to schedule a budget vote, which can potentially allow Democrats to pass the $1.9 trillion relief bill by late February or early March. 

It is unclear if Democrats will be able to use the reconciliation to raise the minimum wage. The process can only be used on legislation tied to budget and revenue. While Democrats may argue that $15 minimum wage is related to budget, it is unclear if they will take the route. 

The Democratic party is hoping to move the bill forward before the enhanced unemployment benefits expire in mid-March. The House would have to pass the resolution, send a version to the Senate, and pass it again in the House before the committees can enact the process. 

Senate Majority Leader Schumer is still working to shore up enough support from Democrats to get the 50 votes needed to pass the resolution.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gavels during the chamber's vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gavels during the chamber's vote on the impeachment of President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021 Photo: AFP / SAUL LOEB