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Budget Reconciliation

Used in a sentence: “Sources said the budget would focus on repealing Obamacare through the fast-track budgeting procedure known as reconciliation, which allows the bill to clear the Senate with just 51 votes.” –Politico

Definition: The House and Senate can pass budget resolutions that contain reconciliation instructions. Those instructions contain directives to authorizing or appropriations committees to devise strategies to change spending to match the levels of the budget resolution. The bills produced by those committees are then treated under special rules in the Senate that allow for only limited debate: 20 hours or 10 hours on a conference report. Under normal rules of debate, most legislation requires 60 votes to pass the Senate (a filibuster). A bill produced under reconciliation instructions can bypass a filibuster in the Senate. Democrats used reconciliation to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2017 Republicans in Congress attempted to use reconciliation to repeal the ACA.

Deeper Dive: Quick review of the Congressional funding process: The Federal Government is funded through mandatory and discretionary spending. Authorizing committees create federal programs, and in some cases, agencies. They can also dissolve those agencies, get rid of programs in those agencies, or change their operations through law. For discretionary spending, the Budget Committees draft resolutions that serve as the framework (through top-line numbers for broad areas such as health, defense, etc.) that appropriators use as the basis for their funding decisions for individual programs in bills that are sent to the President. Appropriations bills are signed into law and fund the government. Other programs such as Medicare are funded through what is called mandatory funding and not through the appropriations process.