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Every year, Congressional budget writers have the option of including special instructions — known as reconciliation instructions — as part of the budget resolution. Reconciliation is a powerful process, whereby legislation drafted to meet those instructions has an easier path to passage.
Most importantly, reconciliation legislation can be passed in the Senate by as few as 50 votes instead of the 60-vote threshold needed to prevent or break a filibuster. (Legislation considered outside of reconciliation can be delayed indefinitely in the Senate by a filibuster unless 60 Senators agree to end it). Budget reconciliation legislation is also expedited in both the House and the Senate by limits on the amount of time for debate and for consideration of amendments.
Reconciliation, with its expedited procedures, provides Congress with an easier means to consider and adopt tax and spending legislation. Not surprisingly, given the current 52-48 Republican majority in the Senate, reconciliation has been prominent in the news this year as Congressional leaders have been attempting to use it to pass healthcare and tax reform.
However, reconciliation can only be used under certain conditions. For example, it cannot be used without the prior adoption of a budget resolution, and it is governed by the Byrd Rule, which places limits on the kinds of legislative provisions that can be included.
More about other budget terms, rules, and processes: