According to the Washington Post, Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion relief package will include an additional 3-year round of monthly payment deposited directly to parents.
The Biden administration is attempting to provide aid to over 10 million poverty-stricken U.S. children by offering their parents a $3,600 check for each child under the age of six and a $3,000 check for each child between the ages of six and 17.
While the proposal is broadly supported on the left, it is unlikely to gather the Republican support it would need to end a filibuster and move forward to a vote. However, Biden has made it clear that he has no disdain for using a workaround, the budget reconciliation process, to advance his policy agenda goals without even the guise of bipartisan support.
Speaking on the need to move forward with or without Republican backing, Biden spoke at the White House in early February. He asked, “are we going to say to millions of Americans who are out of work… ‘don’t worry, hang on, things are going to get better,’” continuing to say, “that’s the Republican answer right now. I can’t in good conscience do that. Too many people in the nation have already suffered for too long.”
Through the standard bipartisan law-making process, the Senate requires a 60-vote supermajority in order to end the period of debate and move to a chamber-wide vote. Given that Senate Democrats are unlikely to entice the support of 10 Republicans, the standard process has become untenable for much of Biden’s agenda.
However, an alternative exists. The budget reconciliation process, written into congressional budget rules in 1974, created an express lane dedicated to bills dealing with spending and taxation, and requires only a simple majority to pass a bill into law.
Similar to the filibuster itself, over the past 20 years the reconciliation process has become a primarily partisan tool used to rush through legislation that would otherwise fall stagnant in the Senate. Recently, the process has been used to make Democratic changes to health care policy, pass Republican tax cuts, and offer Republicans an avenue of attack on the Affordable Care Act.
Budget reconciliation is not, however, an all-powerful trump-card that the majority party can employ for its every policy preference under the sun. It is limited by the Byrd amendment, which prohibits all “extraneous matters” that are “non-budgetary” in scope from being legislated through the reconciliation process.
With much of Biden’s agenda likely occurring through budget reconciliation, the Byrd amendment is set to take center stage in many upcoming discussions, including the debate over increasing the amount of aid offered directly to adults with children.
Going forward, one thing remains certain: Whatever shortcuts Biden and the Democrats are willing to take now, the Republicans will likewise take advantage of down the line, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying of Republicans, they would likely “be able to repeal every bill that had just been rammed through.”