February 16, 2021: Biden will participate in a CNN town hall tonight at 9 ET
President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.
In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden administration.
- No committee hearings are scheduled this week.
- The Senate will resume considering Linda Thomas-Greenfield‘s nomination for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Feb. 22.
- The Senate will debate and vote on Tom Vilsack‘s nomination for secretary of agriculture on Feb. 23.
- The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will meet Feb. 24 to decide whether to advance Isabel Guzman‘s nomination for administrator of the Small Business Administration to a full Senate vote.
- Biden will participate in a CNN town hall tonight at 9 p.m. ET. Anderson Cooper will moderate. The town hall can be viewed on CNN, CNN.com, and CNNgo.
- Based on an executive order from January, HealthCare.gov opened a special enrollment period Feb. 15, ending May 15.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Agriculture announced extensions to forbearance and foreclosure relief programs. They extended the foreclosure moratorium and the mortgage payment forbearance enrollment deadline to June 30 and are providing up to six months of additional mortgage payment forbearance for those who entered forbearance on or before June 30, 2020.
- Biden signed an executive order on Feb. 14 relaunching the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The office was established by George W. Bush, aimed at partnering with faith-based and secular organizations to deliver services. President Donald Trump did not appoint a director of the office during his tenure, creating instead the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives. Melissa Rogers, who served as executive director of the office under President Barack Obama, is reassuming that role under Biden.
- Biden issued a statement on the impeachment trial on Feb. 13 after the Senate acquitted Trump of incitement of insurrection. Biden said, “This sad chapter in our history has reminded us that democracy is fragile. That it must always be defended. That we must be ever vigilant. That violence and extremism has no place in America. And that each of us has a duty and responsibility as Americans, and especially as leaders, to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.”
- White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Feb. 12 that the Biden administration intends to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and would begin a review process.
- The Washington Post reported on Feb. 12 that the “Biden administration is seeking a court’s blessing to propose a new rule aimed at limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the nation’s power plants.”
Transition in Context: Reconciliation primer
What is reconciliation?
Reconciliation is a process Congress can use to expedite consideration of certain budget-related bills. Reconciliation bills are not subject to filibuster in the Senate. A filibuster occurs when debate on a bill is extended, allowing one or more senators to delay or prevent a vote on a given proposal, since 60 votes are required to end a filibuster. With reconciliation, debate on a proposal is capped at 20 hours.
Congress has begun the reconciliation process on Biden’s “American Rescue Plan,” a $1.9 trillion proposal he says will provide relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The House agreed to the Senate’s budget resolution on Feb. 5—the first step in the process. Control of the Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) casting tie-breaking votes.
Budget reconciliation was created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. Under the act, reconciliation can be used on legislation that changes the federal debt limit, revenue, or spending.
For reconciliation measures to be considered by Congress, a budget resolution must be agreed to by both chambers. This resolution must include resolution instructions. Resolution instructions contain four elements:
1. the relevant committee(s) to which the instruction is directed,
2. the deadline by which committee compliance must be achieved,
3. the specific change to either revenues, spending, or the debt (in dollars), and
4. the time period over which those budgetary changes must be achieved.
Once both chambers agree on a budget resolution, committees have until deadlines specified in the resolution guidelines to produce reconciliation measures.
Once a committee develops reconciliation measures, the committee votes on whether to report the resolution to the chamber.
If the measure passes, differences between the chambers are usually resolved in conference. The Senate, however, limits debate time on a conference budget resolution.
Congress is limited to using reconciliation for only one bill for each of the fiscal changes provided for in the reconciliation instructions (changes to revenues, spending, and the debt limit). A single bill may make changes to all three, or two of three, but Congress cannot consider multiple bills satisfying the same instruction in a budget resolution.
In the Senate, reconciliation measures are subject to the Byrd Rule, named for the sponsor of the rule, former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.). The Byrd Rule permits senators to block provisions of reconciliation bills that are considered extraneous.
History of use
Since the introduction of the reconciliation process in 1974, Congresses have passed 21 reconciled bills. Four of those were vetoed—three by President Bill Clinton and one by President Barack Obama. The rest became law.
What We’re Reading
- The Hill: China central to GOP efforts to push back on Biden
- Washington Post: Ambassador sweepstakes underway as figures jockey for plum posts
- The Wall Street Journal: Biden Agenda Faces GOP Seeking to Unify in Opposition After Impeachment