Very few people are aware of the job of the US Senate Parliamentarian, or the holder of that position, Elizabeth MacDonough.
She has held that job since 2012, appointed by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
The first woman to hold that position, she is the sixth person to be in that job, since it was created in 1935.
She is designed to be a nonpartisan official who determines what and what cannot be done under the “reconciliation” process in the Senate, which can allow certain budgetary situations to move forward without meeting the filibuster requirement of sixty senators.
Without that, very little could be done in a Senate which for only the fourth time in history has seen an evenly divided Senate.
The 47th Congress (1881-1883); 83rd Congress (1953-1955); and the 107th Congress (2002-2003) are the only times before the 117th Congress, where we have seen such a situation.
So this woman, Elizabeth MacDonough, highly respected, has tremendous power over the Joe Biden agenda, and now has made clear that immigration reform cannot be utilized under “reconciliation”, a blow to action on that issue, which seems unlikely to be able to be overcome!
“Reconciliation”, a tactic permitted by the Senate parliamentarian, to allow some bills to pass if 51 votes are gained, has led to the passage of the COVID 19 relief legislation in March, and it may be that it will be utilized to gain the passage of the Infrastructure bill, which has been unable to gain Republican support over the past two months of negotiation.
This Congress is the 4th time we have had an evenly divided US Senate, after the 47th Congress (1881-1883); the 83rd Congress (1953-1955); and the 107th Congress (2001-2003).
The tactic can be used only sparingly, but whether it can be employed for a multitude of other Joe Biden initiatives, including on voting rights, criminal justice reform, and health care and education advancements is doubtful.
There is the possibility, sadly, that Joe Biden may be stopped in making massive changes, similar to what Barack Obama faced in 2011-2017, and that is so infuriating!
And the danger that the party in the White House almost always loses seats and or control in the midterm elections, presents a real challenge to Democrats in 2022, when with two thirds of the Senate seats up for election in that year being Republican held seats, and at least five incumbent Republicans not running for reelection.
The US Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that “Reconciliation”, the idea that the Senate can pass legislation by a 51 vote margin, is allowable, already for the COVID 19 legislation that was passed in March, but also now other Joe Biden initiatives, including the infrastructure legislation, and hopefully, other important Biden administration initiatives.
This is a true blessing, and might mean that the idea of ending the filibuster might not need to occur on much important legislation.
This makes it possible for Joe Biden to be more “liberal” and “progressive” a President than any Democrat since Lyndon B. Johnson six decades ago.
For all the good that Democratic Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama did while in office, Joe Biden MIGHT indeed surpass them in accomplishments!
The future looks very exciting, but there is a long way to go, but the hope is there!