Trump misses a key point when he urges the Senate to blow up its rules

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump urges the Senate to changes its rules to allow legislation to pass with only a majority vote.
  • Senate Republicans are already using a budget process that will allow them to pass health-care and tax-reform bills with a majority vote.
Spicer: Trump wants to see bills move through Congress

President Donald Trump's call to end the filibuster in the Senate misses a big point: Republicans can already pass tax reform and Obamacare replacement bills without a single Democratic vote.

On Tuesday, the president tweeted that the Senate "should switch to 51 votes immediately" to "get health care and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy." He presumably means changing rules to scrap the use of the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for a bill to advance.

Trump tweet: The U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes, immediately, and get Healthcare and TAX CUTS approved, fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt!

Press secretary Sean Spicer expanded on the tweet Tuesday afternoon, saying Trump has had "long-standing" concerns and "frustration" with the pace of the Senate and wants to see "action." He also said that Senate Democrats have obstructed and delayed many of Trump's nominations, though their ability to do so is limited.

Trump and Spicer both did not address a critical part of the health-care and tax-reform processes: The Senate already has the ability to pass both bills with a majority vote.

The GOP is using a process known as budget reconciliation in trying to pass bills to overhaul the Affordable Care Act and the tax system. Through reconciliation, the party can approve its plans with only a majority vote in the Senate, in which it controls 52 of 100 seats.

Democrats have so far shown no enthusiasm about joining in with Republicans on plans that would repeal parts of the ACA or chop tax rates for wealthy Americans. While Republicans can pass both proposals without a Democrat supporting them, the GOP has struggled to reach a quick consensus on either issue.

The American Health Care Act, the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare, was pulled from the floor in March as the party failed to muster enough support to pass it. It got approved early this month by a narrow 217 to 213 vote after a series of amendments to appease both conservative and moderate Republicans.

Still, key GOP senators have signaled the plan they will craft will have major differences from the House proposal. The Senate may not pass a bill as quickly as Trump wants, either.

"I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Reuters last week.

The pace of tax-reform passage has led to doubts about how quickly the tax plan will pass, as well. Republicans have signaled that they want to pass a health-care bill before they move on to tax reform.

The Trump administration initially set an August goal for passing a tax overhaul, but has since pushed the timeline to sometime this year.

Still, Spicer said Tuesday that the administration has seen "progress" in crafting a tax reform plan with congressional leaders.

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