The US ruling party and the Democratic Party of Japan are considering using “fiscal adjustment measures (reconciliation)” to aim for parliamentary approval of the ambitious large-scale infrastructure investment plan proposed by President Biden. This is because the Democratic Party of the Senate and the opposition/Republican Party are competing with each other by 50 seats, and the Republican Party has not received support for this proposal. It’s a mechanism for the Senate majority to forcefully pass bills that it considers to be a high priority.
In the US Senate, a filibuster, which aims to delay or prevent a filibuster by giving a long speech in ordinary bill deliberation, is permitted, and 60 votes are required to secure the discontinuation of the filibuster. So the current 50-seat Democratic Party must have at least 10 Republicans on its side. However, if fiscal adjustment measures are used, a simple majority can be voted. In other words, the Democratic Party needs only 50 people and one vote from Vice President Harris.
Fiscal adjustment measures were introduced as part of the 1974 Parliamentary Budget Act.
The aim was to allow Congress to pass spending or revenue plans in line with the original budget, even if the overwhelming majority did not agree. According to Professor Sarah Binder (Political Science) of George Washington University, this is one of the provisions passed by Congress in the 1970s as an exception to the rule that 60 votes are required to prevent a filibuster. Other exceptions include the “fast track procedure,” which grants the president the right to lump-sum negotiations on trade issues and measures to limit the president’s overseas dispatch.
Fiscal adjustments have been used by the president for the purpose of legislating featured policies and have been used over 20 times since 1980. Bill Clinton raised taxes under the Democratic Party administration, Barack Obama exercised to realize the Health Insurance Reform Act (Obama Care), and George W. Bush (child) and Donald Trump used it for tax cuts under the Republican Party administration.
Mr. Biden has already used fiscal adjustments in March of this year with the passage of a $ 1.9 trillion additional corona economic stimulus bill. However, it is not always available to the parliamentary majority. The conditions for applying fiscal adjustment measures are limited to bills that have a direct impact on the budget. Also, until now, it has generally been used only once a year. There have been moves within the current Democratic Party to increase the frequency of use, but the recent agenda guidelines issued by the Senate Secretariat’s agenda management expert seem to have undermined that idea.
However, the Democratic Party under the Biden administration “can” use fiscal adjustment measures once more this year. This is because the previous exercise was related to the 2021 fiscal year, and now it has been switched to the preparation for the formulation of the budget for the 2010 fiscal year.
The House and Senate first passed a budget resolution with “fiscal adjustment instructions” for each committee. Upon receiving these instructions, each committee will make its own bill that will be passed through fiscal adjustment and will eventually be put together into one comprehensive bill.
Senate agenda experts may exclude items that appear to be regulatory matters rather than financial matters from the bill. In fact, in February of this year, parliamentary management experts said the proposal to raise the federal minimum hourly wage to $ 15 should be removed from the additional Corona Economic Measures Bill, which put in fiscal adjustment measures. The judgment of the proceedings expert is generally adhered to by the majority of the Senate at any given time, requiring 60 votes to overturn. Before the unified fiscal adjustment bill is finally passed at the Senate plenary session, a procedure called “Vote-a-Rama” awaits. This is a rule that the amendment can be deliberated endlessly until the ruling and opposition parties agree to discontinue it.