Pelosi eyes reconciliation to boost Obamacare, pandemic aid

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said Democrats will deploy budget reconciliation procedures next year to enhance the Affordable Care Act and provide additional pandemic relief if the party secures a narrow majority in the Senate, wins the White House and maintains control of the House.

“We’ll almost certainly be passing a reconciliation bill, not only for the Affordable Care Act, but for what we may want to do further on the pandemic and some other issues that relate to the well-being of the American people,” Pelosi said on a call sponsored by the liberal group Protect Our Care. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments next week in the Trump administration’s push to overturn the health care law.

Democrats hoping for a sweep this election cycle are eyeing the special legislative vehicle as a way to pass potentially trillions of dollars in policy priorities while avoiding GOP roadblocks and evading the Senate filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.

A simple majority in the Senate is needed to pass reconciliation legislation, which makes it attractive for one party with complete power in Washington, though certain limitations apply. It can only be used to pass legislation that affects spending and revenues, while some areas like Social Security are off-limits.

Democrats used the procedure to pass much of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans later made a failed attempt to repeal the health law through reconciliation, then used the procedure again to pass their 2017 tax overhaul, H.R. 1 (115).

Democrats have also discussed the possibility of using reconciliation to pass an enormous green infrastructure package under a prospective Biden administration, among other initiatives.

While Congress is limited in how often it can use the procedure, there’s a chance that Democrats could tap it twice next calendar year. That’s because Congress never adopted a fiscal 2021 budget resolution, and it still can pass one for fiscal 2022. Congressional budgets don’t become law, but the fiscal roadmaps include instructions for reconciliation, which are needed to unlock the powerful process.

A spokesperson for House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) confirmed that passing two budgets is a possible scenario for Democrats.

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