That would mean creating a “shell” budget resolution for the current fiscal year that would include instructions to the relevant House and Senate committees—the Senate Finance, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Banking and Agriculture committees and the House Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Agriculture committees—giving them the amounts to change in spending, revenue, or deficit targets for their parts of the bill, and instruction to put the smaller bills together in the larger package. Budget reconciliation can only be used, officially, on policies that change spending or revenues. It is fast-tracked in the Senate and cannot be blocked by filibuster.
Helpfully, Biden is giving congressional Democrats all the leeway they need on this. In a wonderful return to normal, White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki held a briefing Wednesday evening and told reporters that while Biden’s “clear preference” is a bipartisan agreement on the relief package, “we are also not going to take any tools off the table for how the […] House and Senate can get this urgent package done.” Meanwhile, Roll Call’s Paul Krawzak reports, “House and Senate leaders, authorizing committees and the Appropriations committees are coordinating closely and running scenarios by the Senate parliamentarian in preparation for writing the reconciliation instructions and bills.”
That includes incoming Senate Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders, who talked about the extraordinary demands of this crisis. “Millions of people are giving up on their government because they’re hurting and we are not responding,” he said. “And in any and every way we have got to respond to the pain the people are feeling in terms of hunger, in terms of evictions, in terms of people not having health care, not having jobs.” What would be extraordinary would be Republicans continuing to refuse to respond to that need, he said: “I hope many of them understand the crises that we’re facing. But if they don’t, we’ve got to go forward with reconciliation.”
Note that Democrats could do this without dismantling the filibuster, though they might be forced to do that in order to get the Budget Committee—all the committees—in Sanders’ and the Democrats’ hands, since McConnell is refusing to allow the Senate to move forward in organizing. By using the procedures available under reconciliation, Democrats (along with Vice President Kamala Harris) could even save the $15/hour minimum wage provision Biden has included in his package—which would arguably fall out of the purview of what should be in a budget reconciliation bill. If Republicans objected, they would have to muster 60 votes to strip it, meaning they’d have to get 10 Democrats to defect, which is not likely to happen.