Senate Passes Temporary Extension of 60-Vote Rules

By Unanimous Consent, the Senate passed a 6-month extension of its expiring "supermajority" 60-vote point of order rules late Wednesday, October 16.

The agreement provides a six-month extension of the Senate's provision requiring 60 votes to waive certain budget points of order, such as the point of order against any tax cut or spending legislation not provided for in the most recent budget resolution. It also has a six-month extension of the Senate pay-as-you-go rule, requiring 60 votes to pass any tax cut or mandatory spending legislation that would increase the deficit.

The resolution's sponsors, Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Pete Domenici (R-NM), originally wanted the 60-vote rules extended for 5 years, and then compromised on one full year -- the passage of only a 6-month extension reflects the objections of Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and others who were opposed to any extension and had threatened to prevent passage. Earlier compromises had also done away with any discretionary spending cap.

The implication is that it will be difficult to pass controversial tax legislation -- such as repeal of the estate tax -- without 60 votes. Unfortunately these important budget procedures will expire the day after income taxes are due -- April 15. No doubt conservatives will oppose renewal.

For more details on the role of the Senate's 60-vote point of order rules, please see this OMB Watch analysis.

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