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Many Biden Bills Will Languish as Filibuster Remains Intact

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A deal made Monday in the Senate to keep the filibuster intact “will play a major role in curbing” President Joe Biden’s agenda, according to Greg Valliere, chief U.S. policy strategist for AGF Investments.

An effort to scrap the filibuster failed in the 50-50 Senate Monday as two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — indicated they would not support abolition, “thus keeping alive the rule that 60 votes are needed to cut off debate,” Valliere explained in his Capitol Notes email briefing Tuesday morning. “This means President Biden and his allies will have to move on to Plan B.”

With the filibuster still alive, “many of Biden’s bills will languish — unless they’re tied to budget issues, which would allow a bill to pass with only 51 votes via a process called reconciliation,” according to Valliere. “That provision can be used only twice this year — and it appears that those two bills will be for Covid relief and for infrastructure, supported by tax hikes.”

Climate legislation and overhauls of policing and immigration laws “probably couldn’t be folded into a budget-related bill via reconciliation,” Valliere continued, “which means that an ambitious progressive agenda will face an uphill battle.”

The bottom line, according to Valliere: “We’ll get a Covid relief bill via reconciliation by spring, but it could be significantly less generous than the initial Biden proposal. Potential casualties: massive aid to states and a minimum wage hike.”

What’s the Filibuster?

It’s ”not in the Constitution,” James Angel, associate professor of finance at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, told ThinkAdvisor on Tuesday in an email. “It is part of the Senate’s rules for when to shut off debate. The filibuster effectively creates a 60-vote supermajority provision for getting Senate approval of legislation. Thus, a party with less than 60 party stalwarts won’t be able to pass legislation on purely partisan votes.”

The filibuster “will prevent legislative implementation of some parts of the so-called ‘progressive’ agenda,” Angel said. “There are some loopholes, though, that affect the tax code and allow ‘temporary’ measures to get in with less than 60 votes. This is why so many tax features expires in a few years, such as the changes in the estate tax.”

Biden, Angel said, “will have to work harder to get bipartisan support for his initiatives. He needs to develop a Reaganesque ability to work with the opposition to get needed things done, something Obama lacked.”

Added Andy Friedman, principal and founder of The Washington Update, in an email: “Elimination of the filibuster was highly unlikely in any event, so this development saves unnecessary threat, delay, and rancor later in the term. The Senate never needs to find an excuse to slow down legislation, but at least this one is out of the way.”

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