(Bloomberg) — U.S. House and Senate Republicans, heading to a policy retreat, will debate whether to use a budget maneuver known as reconciliation to bypass Democrats and send some of their policy proposals to President Barack Obama’s desk.
Led by House Speaker John Boehner and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans will hold a closed-door meeting tomorrow through Friday in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Republicans control both chambers for the first time in eight years.
The goal is to work toward unified strategies for confrontations with Democrats over taxes and spending, health care, border security, immigration and raising the debt limit. According to the printed agenda, one session tomorrow will focus on using a budget strategy called reconciliation — needing a simple majority vote — to advance changes on issues including taxes or entitlement programs.
Congress has many new members, Boehner told reporters today, adding that his “first goal here is to help everybody understand what the budget process is.”
“At some point we’ll decide if we’re going to have reconciliation,” Boehner said at a news conference. For now, “my personal preference I think would remain just that, personal,” he said.
Scheduled to lead the discussion are House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi of Wyoming, to be joined by moderator William Hoagland of the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Budget reconciliation is a term for a maneuver that could be a fast-track way for the Republican majorities to use the federal budget to pass policy changes. It has been used before, including by Democrats in 2010 to complete the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It was also used to create the federal “COBRA” — Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 — health benefits continuation standards. The strategy typically leads to divisions along party lines.
See also: Feds may keep COBRA notice rules in place.
The maneuver must begin with lawmakers adopting a non-binding budget road map, something the divided Congress has struggled to do in recent years.
The process restrains debate and amendments and enables a budget bill containing the majority party’s policy changes to be adopted in the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes. Republicans control the Senate 54-46, meaning they typically need 60 votes to pass major legislation.