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A Definition of Reconciliation

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Definition: The federal budget reconciliation process is a legislative device employed by the U.S. Senate to end a filibuster, close debate and pass controversial budget bills, thereby circumventing the three-fifths rule. Because reconciliation only requires a simple majority, it is a tool primarily used by the majority party. Although the House has a similar procedure, its is rarely used since rules are regularly introduced to prevent protracted debate.

The federal budget reconciliation process arose from language inserted in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which, in part, allows Senators to pass concurrent budget bills without debate or a presidential signature.

Following passage of the 1974 Act, several senators attempted to attach amendments which had nothing to do with fiscal policy to reconciliation bills. To ensure important legislative initiatives are given proper checks and balances, subsequent reconciliation bills have adopted the "Byrd Rule," which applies to amendments that:
  • do not produce a change in outlays or revenues
  • produce changes in outlays or revenue which are merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision
  • are outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure
  • increase outlays or decrease revenue if the provision's title, as a whole, fails to achieve the Senate reporting committee's reconciliation instructions
  • increase net outlays or decrease revenue during a fiscal year after the years covered by the reconciliation bill unless the provision's title, as a whole, remains budget neutral
  • contain recommendations regarding the OASDI (social security) trust funds
There are six exceptions to the Byrd Rule, all of which regard amendments that increase the likelihood of reducing outlays or increasing revenues.
Pronunciation: rekunsileeyyaeshin
Examples:
Since 1980, the reconciliation process has been used to change national health care policy in a number of subtle ways. In 2010, however, Democrats threatened to use the reconciliation process to implement President Barack Obama's major health care reform package. A similar measure was attempted by President Bill Clinton in 1993, but was struck down due to its conflict with the Byrd Rule. The budget reconciliation process is typically employed to help reduce major deficits, which is why Republicans opposed using it to add more than a trillion dollars to the nation's debt burden via Obama's health care plan.

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