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Licensed assisted living rulemaking hearings occur

Patti Cullen By Patti Cullen, CAE |  February 12, 2021  |  All members

It appears that Congress will be using the reconciliation process to pass the next stimulus package for COVID-19 relief after brief efforts at a bipartisan process fell short last week. This is a good time to explain why this process is a bit more limiting for the items we supported that were included in past stimulus packages, primarily provider relief payment and liability protection. Because the partisan breakdown of the Senate is a tie, with the tie-breaking vote going to Vice President Harris, we can anticipate this process will be used more than once in the next few years. 

Reconciliation is a tool—a special process—that makes legislation easier to pass in the Senate. Instead of needing 60 votes, a reconciliation bill only needs a simple majority in the Senate.

Reconciliation starts with the congressional budget resolution. The budget cannot be stalled in the Senate by filibuster, and it does not need the president’s signature. If the budget calls for reconciliation, it tells certain committees to change spending, revenues, or deficits by specific amounts. Each committee writes a bill to achieve its target, and if more than one committee is told to act, the Budget Committee puts the bills together into one big bill. Right now, all 22 committees of the House and Senate are involved in “markup” of the budget proposal.

Other special rules, which are designed to protect the rights of the minority party, apply to reconciliation bills. Only policies that change spending or revenues can be included. Senate debate time is limited, and only certain kinds of amendments can be offered. For example, the Social Security Program cannot be changed in reconciliation.

Named for Senator Robert Byrd, the Byrd rule (Section 313 of the Congressional Budget Act) was first adopted in the mid-1980s to limit extraneous provisions from inclusion in reconciliation bills. Because reconciliation bills are considered using expedited procedures in the Senate, the Byrd rule is aimed at preventing the use of reconciliation to move a legislative agenda unrelated to spending or taxes, and to some extent it limits Congress’ ability to use reconciliation to increase deficits—at least over the long-term. The Byrd rule prohibits the inclusion of “extraneous” measures in reconciliation, defining “extraneous” as follows:
  • measures with no budgetary effect (i.e., no change in outlays or revenues);
  • measures that worsen the deficit when a committee has not achieved its reconciliation target;
  • measures outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision;
  • measures that produce a budgetary effect that is merely incidental to the non-budgetary policy change;
  • measures that increase deficits for any fiscal year outside the reconciliation window; and
  • measures that recommend changes in Social Security.

Any Senator may raise a point of order against an extraneous provision in the reconciliation bill, amendments, or the conference agreement. The Senate Parliamentarian decides whether there is a Byrd rule violation, and provisions struck through a Byrd rule point of order cannot be offered later as amendments.  

Patti Cullen, CAE  |  President/CEO  |  |  952-851-2487


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Care Providers of Minnesota is a non-profit membership association with the mission to Empower Members to Performance Excellence. Our 900+ members across Minnesota represent non-profit and for-profit organizations providing services along the full spectrum of post-acute care and long-term services and support. We are the state affiliate for the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, and with our national partners we provide solutions for quality care.

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