Following their successful use of the filibuster to beat back a repeal of the Affordable Care Act this spring, Democrats are pushing ahead on an ambitious plan to quickly enact new health care, trade and environmental regulations, as well as a $1 trillion infrastructure bill — all with the goal of reducing the party’s slim majority in the House.
But a new problem has emerged: the party’s need to fund that agenda quickly and effectively, the Democrats are facing major questions about whether they can hold the party’s fractious rank-and-file together in the face of a walloping tax bill from Congress’s Republican majority and the coming wave of the new GOP-backed president’s most conservative supporters.
The Democratic Study Committee, a hard-line caucus of House Democrats, is taking up the issue, writing a proposal for Democrats to attach to a Democratic budget resolution that they hope will pass the House but also be blocked by the Senate’s Byrd Rule, which prohibits “appropriations bills for fiscal years” from including such things as an income tax on oil and gas companies.
“There is no doubt that Congress is in a mess right now,” Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a member of the the Democratic Study Committee, said in an interview. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
To make the federal budget more efficient, the proposal would reverse several budget reforms enacted under the 1997 budget agreement that Democrats now argue has made congressional budgeting more difficult. Those included reforming the ability of members of Congress to amend proposed appropriations bills, requiring every major legislation, such as the budget, to be approved by both the House and Senate under closed rules. And using a procedure called budget reconciliation, Congress has voted to amend appropriations bills using budget rules only if the legislation increases the deficit.
As currently proposed, the Democratic proposal would allow for funding increases and other “stimulative” measures without having to allocate funds and recognize offsets under the Byrd Rule. In addition, it would repeal the 1996 budget rules for reconciliation and avoid the need for amending the budget for the next six years.