No Reconciliation Encore?

A number of listeners and readers have emailed me in recent weeks, wondering whether Democrats will try to use the budget reconciliation process again in 2010 to jam through other controversial tax increases.  The answer seems to be no.

Congress is supposed to act by April 15 on the framework of the next fiscal year's budget, a process that is known on Capitol Hill as the "budget resolution".

Today is April 14 - and there has been no move to put together a budget resolution, mainly because of all the energy expended over the last few months on health care reform.

Now let's be clear, the April 15 budget deadline is just a goal - not anything that is carved into stone.

But at this point, there isn't any hint of action on a budget resolution, which would be only the fifth time in 35 years that Congress has failed to approve one.  The others were for fiscal years 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

So how does that apply to reconciliation?  Well, without a budget resolution, there can be no "instructions" for a reconciliation bill, and without those, Congress cannot use the reconciliation process.

More liberal blogs have been complaining for weeks about the lack of a budget resolution, arguing that without reconciliation, it will impossible to get major items through the Senate, since reconciliation does not allow for filibusters.

"Reconciliation is one of the best tools Democrats have to pass progressive bills," complained Jon Walker on Firedoglake this week.

It won't surprise me one bit if the budget process doesn't get very far in this election year.  Hell, it barely got done in 2009, as Democrats had to roll six yearly budget bills into one $447 billion package that was approved just a few days before Christmas.

Democrats will likely get most - if not all the dozen budget bills through the House, simply because they can limit amenmdents and impose strict debate times.

But getting those bills through the Senate will be a much different story, as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and other Republicans are certain to throw up an array of amendments, many of which could present some difficult election year choices for Democrats running for re-election.

So, the budget bottom line is this - right now, there will not be another reconciliation bill, and there may not be many budget bills that make it to the President's desk either.

Stay tuned.

A number of listeners and readers have emailed me in recent weeks, wondering whether Democrats will try to use the budget reconciliation process again in 2010 to jam through other controversial tax increases.  The answer seems to be no. Congress is supposed to act by April 15 on the framework ...