Senator caught on hot mic discussing using reconciliation process to pass infrastructure bill without GOP support

Senate Democrats passed the pork-laden $1.9 trillion COVID “relief” bill without much input or any support from Senate Republicans, by using a parliamentary procedure known as budget reconciliation. Now, it appears they are gearing up to do the same with an infrastructure bill.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) was overheard on a “hot mic” telling Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that reconciliation would “most likely” be utilized to pass infrastructure legislation in a manner “similar to” the American Rescue Plan, Fox News reported. 

Democrats’ plan revealed

The senator’s remarks were caught by a C-SPAN microphone while Cardin was speaking with Buttigieg and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) during a visit to a UPS facility in Maryland that is serving as a distribution hub for the COVID-19 vaccines, according to The Daily Caller.

While difficult to hear in its entirety, Cardin reportedly said of a future infrastructure spending bill, “Ultimately, it’s going to be put together similar to how the rescue plan was put together.”

“It’s gotta be, at the end of the day. You’re most likely going to have to use reconciliation … The Republicans will [only] be with you to a point,” the senator added.

The budget reconciliation process

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, the budget reconciliation process is a special procedural move that allows certain legislation to be “fast-tracked” through the Senate with limits on time allotted for debate and what can be included as amendments. As such, it can be utilized to bypass the 60-vote threshold of the filibuster and permit a bill to be advanced on a simple majority alone.

There are various limitations to the use of the reconciliation process, such as a general prohibition against increasing the deficit without finding ways to eventually pay for that increase, as well as a restriction against the addition of “extraneous matter” in amendments that aren’t intrinsically connected to the main subject of the bill.

Generally speaking, the reconciliation process can only be used once per year each for bills directly related to revenue, spending, or the debt limit.

“Just going to ram it through”

In response to Cardin’s hot mic moment, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said Tuesday that she found her Democratic colleague’s comments to be “very disappointing,” Newsmax reported.

“[He] has normally been a very reasonable person and someone we felt we could work with in past congresses,” Ernst said of Cardin during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

“We passed a bipartisan transportation highway infrastructure bill, but it sounds like Democrats don’t have any intention of working with Republicans this year,” she continued. “They are just going to ram it through, and don’t have to have Republican participation.”

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