How Biden Could Use Reconciliation to Speed Through His Pandemic Aid Plan

The rule’s name lends itself to a number of bird-related puns commonly used to describe the stages of the reconciliation process. There is the “Byrd bath,” when the Senate parliamentarian scrubs and analyzes a bill for any provision that violates the rule if a senator raises a concern about a violation. Anything that does not survive the scrutiny is known as a “Byrd dropping,” and is removed from the legislation before it can advance.

In the case of Mr. Biden’s stimulus plan, among the thorniest questions is whether a provision to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 could survive the Byrd bath. Representative John Yarmuth, Democrat of Kentucky and the chairman of the House Budget Committee, said in an interview that such a provision “is just a stretch.” His Senate counterpart, Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, has signaled that he believes it is feasible.

G. William Hoagland, a former senior Republican budget official in the Senate, said Democrats could have a difficult time using reconciliation for the wage increase or for funding the reopening of schools. But he suggested that Democrats could try to push the limits, for example, by arguing that increasing the minimum wage nationwide might lead to more income tax revenue.

Vice President Kamala Harris could also overrule the parliamentarian, but that has not been done since 1975.

“The bottom line is there’s a lot they can do, but there’s a lot they cannot do,” said Mr. Hoagland, the senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center. “This is why I think President Biden would prefer not to go down this route and instead do an emergency supplemental appropriations bill.”

A budget resolution could be introduced as early next week to start the reconciliation process, but it is unclear how quickly Democrats could move through the process given the legislative parameters and the time constraints of another impeachment trial.

The timing is crucial as the pandemic continues to rage and existing relief programs run their course. Congress faces a deadline of March 14, when the current round of jobless benefits begins to expire. In order to give states time to put a new round of aid in place and prevent unemployed workers from losing access to their benefits, most analysts believe legislation must be passed before the end of February.