The Senate parliamentarian would not likely be rated as one of the more high-profile jobs in Washington, D.C. in ordinary times. As the saying goes, it appears we are blessed to live in interesting times. The parliamentarian’s job is likely to come into the spotlight as Democrats work on the way to get their massive $3.5 trillion spending spree through the Senate past the filibuster rule.
The Senate’s filibuster rule has been around in its current form as to ordinary legislation for many decades. For ordinary bills to defeat a filibuster and move to a final vote, 60 affirmative votes are needed. The Democrats’ gargantuan tax-and-print-and-spend plan has no chance at getting ten Republicans to go along.
The filibuster rule does not apply to the “reconciliation process,” a mechanism permitted under the rules to reconcile budgetary bills passed by the Senate and House so that a uniform budget measure can be enacted and delivered to the president for signing or veto. A reconciliation bill requires only a simple majority to go to a final vote, which means Democrats can pass such a package through the Senate if every Democrat votes in addition to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
It is where Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough comes in. She is a non-partisan appointee who handles disputes over the Senate rules and provides guidance to the Senate on compliance with procedural regulations. Her track record indicates that she has not had a problem ruling against both parties when required by the rules.
As an example of how far the Democrats want to stretch the meaning of what constitutes a budgetary provision in order to avoid the filibuster, they want to include more than 8 million green cards as part of their spending plan. The payoff to Democrats would be 8 million newly minted voters virtually sure to vote straight Democrat.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has argued that as more people become permanent residents, they will enroll in government programs. He claims that economists “agree” that every dollar granted to a permanent resident through a government program returns ten dollars to the U.S. economy.
Durbin has admitted that the question of whether the green card component of the spending bill qualifies as a “budget” item is in the hands of the Senate parliamentarian. The burden of proving that lies entirely with the Democrats.
Only in the world of politics can we be treated to having trillion-dollar decisions fall to a single unelected bureaucrat. It will be interesting, at least, to see what the parliamentarian does.