Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

The Senate Should Restore the Conrad Rule

Aug 10, 2021 | Budgets & Projections

The Senate is currently considering a budget resolution that includes reconciliation instructions to facilitate the enactment of numerous climate, family, education, health, and other initiatives. While supporters claim the reconciliation package will be “fully offset,” the budget itself allows for up to $1.75 trillion of borrowing, with costs spread across 11 Senate committees, while the Finance Committee would be required to put forward at least $1 billion of net deficit reduction.

During the budget resolution amendment process, lawmakers may have the opportunity to consider an amendment to restore the “Conrad Rule,” requiring the final reconciliation language to be deficit-neutral. The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

"If reconciliation will be fully paid for as claimed, restoring the Conrad rule should be a no brainer. It’s time for senators to put their money where their mouth is.

The Conrad rule, which was in effect from 2007 to 2015, simply says a reconciliation bill cannot add to budget deficits. With this rule in place, policymakers could spend as much as they want – so long as they pay for it. And the rule would allow policymakers to maintain flexibility over how spending is divided among committees.

Democrats in the Senate voted unanimously to restore the Conrad rule in 2017, led by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), King (I-ME), Warner (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Kaine (D-VA), Coons (D-DE), Wyden (D-OR), and Van Hollen (D-MD).

They were right to support the Conrad rule in 2017, and they would be right to support it now. As Senator Baldwin requested at the time, ‘Let's not use reconciliation to add to our deficit.’"

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For more information, please contact Ben Tomchik, deputy chief of staff, at tomchik@crfb.org