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Congress is moving quickly to pass a major COVID-19 relief bill based on President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Democratic leadership is using a budget process, known as “budget reconciliation.”

What is reconciliation and why use it?

Reconciliation is a budget process that allow Congress to quickly pass legislation with budgetary impacts. While most bills require 60 votes to pass through the Senate, bills passed under reconciliation require only a simple majority of 51 votes. Using reconciliation will allow the Senate majority to advance a bill and avoid the threat of a filibuster.

Here’s the run-down of how we expect things to play out.

Step 1: Begin the Process

The first step in the reconciliation process is the passage of a budget resolution. Congress did that on Feb. 5.  

Step 2: Committees Draft Legislative Language

The budget resolution includes instructions to various committees to develop bills that will put the President’s American Rescue Plan into legislative language. The House committees are writing their bills the week of Feb. 8.

It is expected that these bills will include strong provisions to:

  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for adults not raising children.
  • Expand the Child Tax Credit to $3000 a child and $3,600 for children under 6, make it fully available to low-income families, and distribute it monthly.
  • Extend enhanced unemployment assistance through the summer
  • Issue another round of stimulus checks.
  • Provide additional emergency rental, homelessness, nutrition, and childcare assistance, and raise the minimum wage, among other things.

Step 3: Combine Bills and Vote

The Budget Committee will then take the bills drafted by individual committees and combine them into one giant reconciliation bill. This could happen as soon as the week of Feb. 15. That legislation will then go before the full U.S. House, followed by the Senate, for a vote. If it passes both chambers of Congress, it will go to the President to be signed into law.

What You Can Do

The White House and Congressional leaders are working fast to pass this reconciliation bill before enhanced unemployment benefits expire March 14.

We know these will be close votes. Every member of Congress needs to hear from their community about the importance of passing this robust relief package. Not only would it ensure critical assistance continues during this moment of crisis, this legislation also includes provisions like the EITC and Child Tax Credit expansions, which have the potential to reverse the devastating spike in hunger and poverty in this country. It could cut child poverty in half. Now is the time to weigh in and make your voice heard. 

Amelia Kegan

Amelia Kegan

Legislative Director, Domestic Policy
Amelia Kegan leads the domestic policy team’s work in analyzing legislation, advocating on Capitol Hill, and developing legislative strategy.

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