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Who is Elizabeth MacDonough? Senate parliamentarian all but killed Schumer's filibuster circumvention

Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough
by WorldTribune Staff, June 3, 2021

Senate Democrats intent on pushing their leftist agenda without Republican support suffered a major setback Wednesday when the Senate parliamentarian set new limits on how many times Democrats can use the budget reconciliation process.

In a four-page memo, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough made it clear Democrats will likely have only one more opportunity to use the reconciliation process this fiscal year and can't use it just to avoid a filibuster, essentially closing the door on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's strategy to use it on multiple votes.

MacDonough was appointed to the parliamentarian post in 2012 by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.

Budget reconciliation allows a 51-vote threshold, rather than the 60 votes typically needed to stop a filibuster and advance legislation.

Analysts say that MacDonough's decision likely kills the For the People Act, the Democrats' attempt at a federal takeover of the U.S. voting system.

The parliamentarian's move "essentially defeats HR1, the ProAct, and much of what is included in the current 'infrastructure' bill," RedState's Bonchie noted. "Of course, none of those bills were likely getting support from Manchin anyway, but with reconciliation off the table to get this stuff passed, Schumer is now officially out of options."

In the memo, MacDonough said the framers of the modern budget process law did not intend the process to be used an indefinite number of times.

"The potential for abuse was clear in 1974 and is all the more obvious now," MacDonough wrote, according to Roll Call, adding that "overuse and over-reliance on a hyper-fast track procedure in the ordinarily deliberative Senate … will change the culture of the institution to the detriment of the committee and amendment processes and the rights of all Senators."

According to MacDonough, a budget reconciliation resolution, unlike a regular budget resolution, cannot be automatically discharged from the Senate Budget Committee without a markup — creating a problem for Democrats because the committee is evenly divided.

Earlier this year, Schumer circumvented a filibuster and used the budget reconciliation process to pass the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan without the support of any Republicans.

MacDonough was at the center of another key decision earlier this year when Democrats tried to push a $15 an hour minimum wage hike through the reconciliation process. She said that measure fell outside the scope of what is allowed under the process, violating the “Byrd Rule” that says any measures “extraneous” to the budget cannot be passed through the budget reconciliation process.

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