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July 14, 2020, 1:20 p.m. EDT

Biden could use GOP trick to open door to ‘big things’ in 2021

Democrats would have two silver bullets to use to pass tax and spending priorities if they win the Senate this November

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By Jonathan Nicholson

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Biden, saying it would depend on how “obstreperous” Republicans are in opposition, recently hinted he could warm to getting rid of the filibuster.

That would be a mistake, in Hoagland’s eyes, for both the Senate as an institution and for the already crippled budget process, by removing any incentive for lawmakers to engage with the budget.

“Frankly, from my perspective, that would spell the end of any vestiges of what the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was meant to do,” he said.

“I want to retain the legislative filibuster,” he said. “Though I don’t like the way the budget process has evolved, I would much prefer they at least go through that process first before they eliminate the legislative filibuster completely.”

Hoagland said it’s possible an initial round of reconciliation would serve as a stalking horse to gauge appetite for going nuclear on the legislative filibuster.

“What I’ve been hearing, which makes me feel very uncomfortable, is the revisitation of the nuclear option instead to do away with the legislative filibuster in the Senate would be back in the front,” he said.

Reconciliation is an unwieldy instrument, though, and Democrats may chafe under its restrictions, according to both Moller and Hoagland. Provisions with only incidental budget impacts can be stripped out and several Democratic priorities could be hard to shoehorn into a reconciliation bill.

“You can’t raise the minimum wage via reconciliation. Broader health-care regulations outside of Medicare and Medicaid that aren’t really budget impactful are tough. I think justice and equity issues are going to be a big part of the Democrats’ governing agenda,” Moller said. “There’s a lot of things that are nonbudgetary in that space.”

But Moller said having two budget rounds would allow for flexibility, especially as the landscape changes in relation to getting past the COVID-19 crisis.

The downside, he said, is that going through those would delay a decision on the fate of the legislative filibuster, which he said may need to be scrapped if Democrats want to enact big climate or health-care changes more easily.

“The current situation is unsustainable,” he said. “I think everyone can agree on that.”

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