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Updated May 28, 2024, 5:40pm EDT
politics

Building the wall, opening ANWR: The GOP starts mapping its reconciliation game plan

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The News

House GOP leaders are telling their members to start brushing up on the Senate’s rules as they prepare for a potential legislative sprint in 2025.

Republicans hope to push ahead quickly with an expansive agenda if they can win back a trifecta in November, including a renewal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as well as border and energy legislation. Members of leadership have told reporters they want a major bill done within the first 100 days of a second Trump administration.

But to do so, they’ll have to lean on budget reconciliation, the complex maneuver that allows legislation to pass the Senate on a simple majority vote by blocking filibusters. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise told Semafor he’s begun pushing all of his chamber’s committee chairs to “start thinking of ideas” for measures that could pass muster under the process.

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He has specifically urged them to “get familiar” with the infamous Byrd Rule, the multi-part test that determines what bills are eligible for reconciliation.

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Know More

Reconciliation has been Congress’s tool of choice to pass major party-line tax and spending legislation in recent decades, including the Trump tax cuts and Joe Biden’s American Rescue Act and Inflation Reduction Act. But lawmakers have sometimes seen cherished proposals hit a wall thanks to its requirement that bills must have more than an “incidental” impact on the budget, which in general makes bills a no-go if they mostly entail regulatory changes.

In 2021, for instance, the Senate Parliamentarian ruled that Democrats could not use reconciliation to pass immigration reform or an increase to the minimum wage. In 2017, she challenged important pieces of the GOP’s proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

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Scalise told Semafor that while Republicans “would try to push the envelope” with reconciliation on border policy, they were also eying some more sure bets that would complement executive actions by the Trump administration.

“We can do things like fund more technology and the border wall,” he said. “The big policies would be things that President Trump could do on his own through executive order, like ending catch and release and renegotiating the ‘remain in Mexico’ policy.”

On energy, Scalise said that Republicans would use reconciliation to open more federal land for oil and gas exploration, including the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. He noted that Congress had previously opened ANWR for drilling via reconciliation before President Biden closed it off.

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Republicans are still early in the process of forming their agenda for next year. “We’re just engaging all the committee chairs,” Scalise said. He added that House Republicans are having staff level discussions with their Senate counterparts, and that he had spoken with former President Trump and his team about the party’s goals. (Speaker Mike Johnson has also been in touch with Trump on 2025).

One thing to keep an eye on? Scalise says House Republicans want the Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office to more aggressively use dynamic scoring, which factors in economic growth when estimating a bill’s budget impact, and could make tax cuts less costly on paper.

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The View From K Street

Some say Republicans could face a challenge trying to quickly pass an agenda — and especially something as complex as a major tax bill — because they’re drafting ideas relatively late in the game.

“Usually we’d have an arsenal of normalized ideas on how to get through the tax tsunami that’s coming. Now what’s happening is it’s all going to be crammed into 12 months,” former congressman Tom Reed, a lobbyist and ex-member of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Semafor. “It was decades in the making to get to 2017 and now we’re looking at a one-year window to grab this tax tsunami tiger by the tail. It’s going to be a monster!”

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