As Congressional Republicans are balking at President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, it is unclear whether Democrats would secure the necessary 60-votes to pass a new relief package.
During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suggested that Democrats could bypass Republicans by using budget reconciliation — which only requires 51 votes — to pass the relief bill.
Democrats hold 50-seats in the Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote.
“Reconciliation, which is a Senate rule, was used by the Republicans under Trump to pass massive tax breaks for the rich and large corporations. It was used as an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Sanders said.
He continued, “And what we’re saying is ‘You used for that. That’s fine. We are going to use Reconciliation — that is 50 votes in the Senate plus the vice president — to pass legislation desperately needed by working families in this country. You did it. We’re going to do it.'”
“But we’re going to do it to protect ordinary people, not just the rich and the powerful,” he added.
Watch the video below:
Sen. Bernie Sanders says Democrats will use reconciliation “as soon as we possibly can" to pass a Covid-19 relief package, which will allow for a 51 majority vote rather than 60.— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 24, 2021
“What we cannot do is wait weeks and weeks and months and months to go forward,” he says. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/CWcT9PoZHn
When asked when Senate Democrats might move to use Reconciliation to pass the relief bill, Sanders said, “As soon as we possibly can.”
Sanders noted that he criticized Republicans in 2017 for using Reconciliation to pass former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, which he said gave “tax breaks to billionaires.”
“Yes, I did criticize them for that. And if they want to criticize me for helping to feed children who are hungry or senior citizens in this country who are isolated and alone and don’t have enough food, they can criticize me,” Sanders added.
Budget reconciliation allows the Senate to pass specific budget and tax bills with a simple majority without the threat of the filibuster.
While Democrats are pushing to quickly pass another relief package, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) told reporters that Biden’s bill is a “non-starter.” And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said its release was “not well-timed,” as he noted it came just weeks after Congress passed a $900 billion relief package.
As Sanders is calling for using Reconciliation to pass a relief package, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (R-Ill.) is suggesting Democrats should consider making changes to the legislative filibuster to prevent Republicans from blocking Biden’s legislative agenda.