Budget reconciliation: A necessity

Conor Kelly (TheLorian)

From the beginning of his administration, Joe Biden has worked hard to cast himself as the voice of unity, bipartisanship, and policy-based action. But with a slim majority in the House and Senate, President Biden is now facing a difficult decision—a decision he must own up to and embrace whether the Republicans like it or not.

Currently, Biden has attempted to get a stimulus package of about 1.9 trillion dollars through the Senate to provide adequate funding for vaccines, stimulus checks, and other such funding that Biden argues could help rebuild the economy post-COVID-19. However, Republicans have been hesitant to engage with more spending for the budget, with moderate Republicans like Senator Susan Collins raising concerns about the total cost. Conveniently, none of them objected to the 5.2 trillion dollars that former President Trump added to the debt in his first three years in office. The debt was far from their minds when they were in power.

This hypocrisy is easy to mock and even easier to demonstrate, but it does nothing for the 10.1 million Americans who are currently unemployed. Nor do such attacks bring back the 3.5 million permanent jobs that were lost in January alone. When the economy is adding a sluggish 49,000 jobs for the last month—less than half of the 100,000 jobs that were predicted— it is incumbent on the administration to act boldly.

In all likelihood, Republicans will try and block the stimulus via a filibuster, which can only be overturned with a two-thirds majority vote. With only 50 Democrats in the Senate, that two-thirds vote will be almost impossible to achieve. However, the stimulus is far from dead. Under the Senate’s rules, financial decisions related to the budget, such as the stimulus, can be passed without permitting a filibuster. All that is required is a simple majority, and if Senator Joe Manchin is pushed to act, the Democrats will secure their majority. The process for enacting such a rule is known as budget reconciliation. If Democrats were to use it, Biden would secure the necessary stimulus to help millions of Americans across the country who are hurting.

Americans want to work, but the pandemic has taken that from them. According to the Department of Labor, of the 7 million Americans who want a job and are not seeking employment, 4.7 million were prevented from doing so because of COVID-19. Currently, 17.8 million people are on some form of government assistance, making it all too clear how our society desperately needs aid. It is incumbent on Biden and his Democratic allies in the Senate to act here and now. They should use budget reconciliation and push the Republicans out of the way so Americans don’t drift even further into destitution.

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Conor J. Kelly was the Opinion Editor for the Lorian and a prolific staff writer. He graduated from Loras College in April of 2021 and is now pursuing his master's in political science at the University of Illinois, Springfield. You can find his new work on The Progressive American newsletter.

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