The Myth of 60 votes in the U.S. Senate
Often people claim it takes 60 votes to pass a bill in the U.S. Senate. This is true for most bills, because additional rules make it possible for any Senator to hold up the passing of most bills through a process called a filibuster. To stop a filibuster, the Senate needs 60 votes to end debate. However, this rule DOES NOT APPLY in a common process used to pass budget bills called Reconciliation.
Stan Collender, a contributing editor at the National Journal, managing director at Qorvis Communications in Washington, D.C., and contributing writer for Roll Call, is an expert and frequent speaker on the budget to audiences across the country and author of "The Guide to the Federal Budget." Writing for Roll Call and reprinted at Capital Gains and Games, Mr. Collender explains:
"Reconciliation, which was part of the Congressional Budget Act when it was adopted in 1974, wasn’t used until the start of the Reagan administration. Although it hasn’t been used every year since then, reconciliation has become such a regular part of the budget process that it’s now generally considered a staple. It has been used by Republican- and Democratic-controlled Congresses alike for both spending and revenues.
The most important and obviously controversial part is that reconciliation bills can’t be filibustered because the debate is limited by law."
“The House-passed version of the 2010 budget resolution allows health care reform to be included in a reconciliation bill and, therefore, adopted in the Senate with 51 votes…”
“First, contrary to what some have been saying, reconciliation has become such a standard part of the budget process that using it for health care would be neither surprising nor precedent-setting. When they were in the majority, Republicans insisted that reconciliation was allowed by Senate rules and used it in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Back then, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who has been one of the biggest opponents of using reconciliation this year, made what in retrospect is an almost infamous floor speech about the appropriateness and legality of using reconciliation.
Second, health care reform will have a substantial impact on federal finances and so can’t be said to be unrelated to the budget, which is one of the critical criteria for using reconciliation. In fact, given that at least two of the largest mandatory federal spending programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are health care programs, health care reform and reconciliation would seem to be a perfect fit.”