THE VINE APRIL 23, 2010
A few days ago, Jon Chait noted that Senate Democrats were preparing yet another budget reconciliation bill this year. That, in turn, raised the possibility that energy legislation could pass the Senate with only 50 votes (rather than the 60 that's now the de facto standard to overcome the inevitable GOP filibuster). Well, so much for that: Kent Conrad's Senate budget committee closed off that option yesterday:
The committee easily approved, 16-6, an amendment from ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) that would establish a point of order against using reconciliation for any new program whose spending exceeds 20 percent of the amount of the reconciliation instruction to the committee. In essence, that would mean that any far-reaching legislative program – including climate legislation – would likely violate the provision.
“One would hope that you’re not going to put energy in reconciliation, but if you are it would definitely trip this point of order,” Gregg said. The point of order could be waved but that would require the support of 60 senators, negating the procedural advantage of moving a bill though the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.
A number of Democrats, including Conrad, had said even before yesterday’s action that there appeared to be little interest in the Senate in moving climate legislation through reconciliation. Indeed, Conrad and five other committee Democrats voted with the Republicans on Gregg’s amendment.
This isn't all that surprising—pretty much everyone has expected that, if climate/energy legislation is ever going to pass, it's going to need 60 senators supporting it—but now it's official.