Category: Blog
The Senate’s “Nuclear Option” — How it Works and Why it Matters

Charles S. Konigsberg served as Chief Counsel on the Minority Staff of the Senate Rules Committee, General Counsel at the Senate Finance Committee, counsel at the Senate Budget Committee, and Senate liaison at the White House Office of Management and Budget.

We are about to witness a major change in how the U.S. Senate operates – the so-called “nuclear option.”  Following is an explanation of how it works and why it matters....

On November 21, 2013, the Senate created a major exception to the 60-vote cloture threshold. In a procedural vote, the Senate adopted a precedent that ending a filibuster on a President’s executive and judicial appointments would only require a simple majority of Senators voting. The precedent specifically excluded nominations to the Supreme Court, which still requires 60 votes to end a filibuster.

What made this 2013 precedent “nuclear,” is the way the Rules change was accomplished.  The Senate ignored its own Standing Rules requiring that: (i) changes to the Rules can occur only with prior written notice; and (ii) debate on a Rules change can only be brought to a close upon a two-thirds vote of the Senate (67 Senators if all are present).  The Standing Rules very deliberately set a high threshold for changing the rules.

...

read more
How Tax Reform Will Unfold: The political landscape in the wake of Trump-Ryan health bill’s demise

In evaluating where the White House and GOP congressional leaders will focus their efforts following the demise of Trump-Ryan health care reform, consider the following: $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending is a heavy lift due to significant conservative opposition to new spending and few indications of a move toward bipartisanship; and the White House budget plan calling for $54 billion in defense increases, offset by cuts to widely supported domestic programs, is a non-starter because adjusting the spending caps and enactment of Appropriations bills both require 60 votes in the Senate.

Therefore, tax reform is likely to be next in the legislative queue. White House and GOP Congressional leaders are likely to begin Tax Reform this Spring using the FY 2018 congressional budget process, to take advantage of Budget Reconciliation’s filibuster-proof fast-track in the Senate. Here’s how it works and what may be included in the tax bill...

read more
Trump Budget Outline Calls for Massive Shift in Spending Priorities

The Trump Administration released a budget outline Thursday morning, addressing the 30% of the budget that is appropriated annually by Congress (i.e. defense and non-defense discretionary spending).  Proposals on entitlement programs and tax reform are expected to be released in May.   Link to Trump...

read more