That’s Nice; Now What Do We Do With It?

Monday Chuck Schumer got a Dyngus Day gift. (OK, it had nothing to do with Dyngus Day but where else do you hear about that holiday?) The Senate Parliamentarian ruled that reconciliation could be used three more times during this Congress instead of the once more that was generally assumed. I’m not going to get into the weeds of her reasoning; instead, I’m going to try and guess how the Democrats might use it.

Briefly (and incompletely) reconciliation is a process where legislation can be passed in the Senate without dealing with the filibuster. It is also and very importantly restricted to items that effect the budget and that last part is always interpreted very narrowly.

Despite the fact that it was overwhelmingly popular with the electorate the Democrats were forced to pass the last rescue plan without a single Republican vote. The plan was to use the remaining reconciliation opportunity to pass what is shaping up to be another overwhelmingly popular infrastructure bill which the Republicans are somehow criticizing and Mitch McConnell has already promised will have no Republican votes. I see a few political “adventures” along the way but this will also pass via reconciliation. That leaves us with the question: What will the Democrats use the other two opportunities to accomplish?

Off the top of my head I came up with six possibilities: More of the Green New Deal, Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax, a carbon tax, the repeal of the carried interest provision in the tax code, more money for “cops” namely the IRS and EPA enforcement forces and perhaps another stimulus. Let’s very briefly take a look at them.

Many Green New Deal provisions are already in the recovery plan and more are certain to be included in the infrastructure package. I could easily see where a carbon tax could be included in a “Green package”.

I have long supported Senator Warren’s Wealth Tax proposal in theory. It would certainly help fight inequity. My issue has been in how to enforce it. A stand alone bill will never get sufficient Republican support to pass under the current filibuster rules, but under reconciliation there is a chance a good bill could be written that could get solid Democratic support.

The Carbon Tax is a real challenge whether free standing or as part of more comprehensive legislation. The reality is that West Virginia’s Joe Manchin is needed to be on board to muster the 50 Democratic votes in the Senate. I assume he is smarter than his political stance but he feels he has to remain pro-coal to stay popular with his constituents and I feel they would perceive a carbon tax as anti-coal.

The repeal of the carried interest provision in the tax code is long overdue and something that would be better placed in a larger bill but a stand alone bill is not inconceivable. I have a problem -and I have a lot of company – with letting certain high income people in a few industries pay a lower tax rate on much of their income.

We know that for every dollar we spend on the IRS they bring six dollars into the treasury and that high end tax fraud is a seldom spoken of fact of life in America. Those same tax cheaters (and that is exactly what they are) spend billions supporting Republican members of the Senate. The only way to get the IRS more enforcement money is to skirt the filibuster and use primarily, if not exclusively, Democrats to do it. Sans the revenue generation the story is almost the same when it comes to the environment.

I don’t think another stimulus is likely and hopefully other than targeted aid to the hardest hit among us I hope it will be unnecessary. Recent history has taught us that if it is needed the Republicans will not lift a finger to help.

Chuck Schumer and his team find themselves in a situation similar to someone who receives an unexpected gift (or mostly unexpected), opens it up, looks at it, decides it is nice and then says (hopefully silently) now what am I going to do with this?

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