EXPLAINER: Senate eyes budget rule to push past filibuster

Full Screen
1 / 2

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this March 6, 2021, file photo Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. With a powerful new tool, Schumer has fresh options for advancing President Joe Bidens infrastructure package and certain other priorities over Republican obstruction in the 50-50 split Senate. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON – With the Senate split 50-50, leaders of the Democratic majority are looking for ways to advance their priorities and President Joe Biden's agenda around the typical 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster by opponents.

This week, the Senate parliamentarian ruled that one tool, budget reconciliation, could be used more often than expected to pass certain measures with a 51-vote threshold. That potentially opens new opportunities for approving not only President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure package, as had been expected, but other legislation on a party-line vote without Republicans.

A look at the process and what's ahead:

WHY THE SENATE STALEMATE?

Democrats hold the majority in the evenly split 50-50 Senate because the vice president of their party, Kamala Harris, can provide as a tie-breaking vote.

But most major legislation requires 60 votes to advance, overcoming an objection from a filibuster, which can be waged by any senator who wants to halt action.

That's a tall order in the narrowly divided Senate, and a recipe for gridlock especially in partisan times.

Key senators want to change the filibuster rules, ending the 60-vote threshold they view as a throwback — a procedural relic of segregation before the passage of civil rights legislation.