Schumer eyes bypassing filibuster for third bill

Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLouisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in McConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill MORE (D-N.Y.) is looking at whether he could pass a third bill this year through reconciliation, an arcane budget process that lets Democrats avoid the legislative filibuster.

Schumer’s staff recently argued to the parliamentarian that they could use Section 304 of the Congressional Budget Act, which greenlights the use of reconciliation, to tee up passing at least a third bill this year by a simple majority, an aide for the New York Democrat confirmed.

"Schumer wants to maximize his options to allow Senate Democrats multiple pathways to advance President BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE’s Build Back Better agenda if Senate Republicans try to obstruct or water down a bipartisan agreement," the Schumer aide added.

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Typically, Congress can only pass one bill under reconciliation per fiscal year. Democrats have already used the 2021 budget to set up and pass their $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan. They are likely to use the fiscal 2022 budget to pass the Build Back Better plan, which addresses infrastructure, jobs and climate change.

But Schumer’s staff is arguing that they could use Section 304 to squeeze out another bill under the fiscal 2021 budget, pointing to language that states “the two Houses may adopt a concurrent resolution on the budget which revises or reaffirms the concurrent resolution on the budget for such fiscal year most recently agreed to.”

No decision has been made on legislative strategy, according to the Schumer aide, and the parliamentarian would need to rule in his favor. The discussions were first reported by Politico Playbook.

But the talk of trying to find additional pathways to avoiding the filibuster comes as Biden is expected to unveil his next economic proposal on Wednesday.

Though wanting to do a sweeping infrastructure package has long been a bipartisan goal, there are divisions over how to pay for the bill. Congressional Democrats and the White House have floated tax increases for corporations and high-income earners, something viewed as a non-starter by Republicans.

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Democrats are also facing a reality where many of their big priorities could struggle to get 60 votes in the Senate, the amount needed to break a filibuster.

What Democrats can fit under reconciliation is limited — the parliamentarian previously nixed a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as part of the coronavirus plan, for example.

But Democrats also don't currently have the votes to nix the legislative filibuster. They would need the support of all 50 members of their caucus in order to get rid of the procedural hurdle, and several members aren't on board. That is leaving them looking for ways to get their agenda through the chamber if they can't get 60 votes.

"I believe that big, bold action is an imperative. We must get that done. And we prefer our Republican colleagues to work with us on these things. Many of the things I mentioned are bipartisan in the sense that a majority of Republicans support them," Schumer told reporters last week.

"If they don't, our caucus will come together and we will discuss the best way to produce that big, bold action. And as I've said before, everything, everything is on the table," he added.