Flipping The Byrd: Democrats Demand The Firing Of The Senate Parliamentarian After The Minimum Wage Hike Is Deemed Out of Order

Democratic members this week attacked Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough after she (correctly) ruled that the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage hike in a reconciliation bill violated Senate rules. The response from Democratic members and many in the blogosphere was withering.  Rep. Ilhan Omar called for MacDonough to be fired and others denounced her actions and called the Senate to simply overrule her — and the long-standing rules.  It is not just the effort to gut or flip the “Byrd Rule” but vicious attacks on this parliamentarian that are so disconcerting.

The use of a reconciliation bill was an effort to circumvent the filibuster and allow a majority vote on the hike. However, by using reconciliation, the Democrats triggered the ‘Byrd rule’ –  which limits the type of provisions in the reconciliation process to taxing and spending. The purpose is to limit an add-ons through reconciliation to measures designed to have a direct impact on the federal budget—barring the use of reconciliation to introduce “extraneous” measures.  Otherwise, reconciliations could circumvent the normal legislative process and the filibuster option for the minority. The rule allows a senator to object when a reconciliation bill is brought to the floor through a Point of Order on the bill. After the Byrd Rule is raised, the Senate Parliamentarian informs the Presiding Officer on how to rule and the Presiding office conveys that to the Senate.  Senators can then vote to overrule the Presiding Officer but the process protects the minority and the parliamentarian by requiring that a vote to overrule secure a three-fifths majority.

The Parliamentarian’s role is key to a system of orderly legislative process. To simply disregard such rules (and fire those who seek to maintain them) is yet another example of the rage that has replaced reason in our current politics. Byrd was famous for putting the interests of the Senate and the Constitution before his own party. This effort shows increasingly rare such institutional defenders have become in this age of rage.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the first to balk at any rules standing in the way of reform: “I think the parliamentarian is verging on, you know, just really intruding in this legislative process in a very concerning way.” I am not really sure what that actually means. Parliamentary rules are the thing that defines the legislative process and guarantees a neutral and ordered process of deliberation and enactment.

Yet, she was joined by others who dismissed the notion that such rules should matter. Rep. Ro Khanna declared “I’m sorry – an unelected parliamentarian does not get to deprive 32 million Americans the raise they deserve.” Rep. Pramila Jayapal declared “Twenty-seven million Americans are not going to be much convinced when we go back in two years and say, ‘Sorry, the unelected parliamentarian told us we couldn’t raise the minimum wage.’”

It was a grossly unfair statement that made it sound like MacDonough is against Americans getting deserved wages. Her job is to rule on the procedural means for bringing matters to the floor. Statements like those of Khanna and Jayapall incite those who have attacked MacDonough on the Internet and trashed her reputation.

Omar was one of the first to seek action against MacDonough: “Replace the parliamentarian. What’s a Democratic majority if we can’t pass our priority bills? This is unacceptable.” It was a telling statement. Omar would fire this woman because she is standing in the way of letting Omar and others of having their way. That is the point of parliamentary rules. You do not simply have a right to do what you want in any way that you want to.

Yet, publications like Slate noted “Democrats could also fire MacDonough and replace her with someone who’s a little more go-with-the-flow on all these tedious ‘rules’ issues.”

To its credit, the Biden White House shot down calls for Vice President Kamala Harris to move to overrule the parliamentarian. White House chief of staff Ron Klain told MSNBC “Certainly, that’s not something we would do. We’re going to honor the rules of the Senate and work within that system to get this bill passed.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders insisted that the hike would have an impact on the federal budget and thus the Parliamentarian is wrong. However, his rationale could be used to gut the Byrd Rule by claiming that any bill would have positive impacts on the budget in the long term. All bills are defended on that basis. Sanders notes that the Congressional Budget Office found the $15 wage proposal would cost jobs but would also lift nearly one million out of poverty.  That finding however was mixed and the point of the rule is the force such important measures to go through the full legislative process, including being subject to the filibuster rule. This is a massive increase with enormous impacts on the economy.  It is the type of action that legislative process is designed address through deliberation and compromise. The filibuster forces such compromise. In this case, even Democratic senators like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have objected to the hike. In the past, Democrats have recognized the value of that process.  Hillary Clinton stated “I learned some valuable lessons about the legislative process, the importance of bipartisan cooperation and the wisdom of taking small steps to get a big job done.”

I will leave the merits of the hike to others. However, the attack on the Parliamentarian, including the call for her being fired, is reprehensible. In a prior column, I wrote how Democrats are adopting the rhetoric and tactics that they denounced in former President Trump.  It is also a type of “myside bias” where Democrats disregard any countervailing limits or rules. (They are not alone in such bias. Many of us were critical of former Majority Leader Trent Lott replacing Parliamentarian Robert Dove in 2001, a move that Democrats denounced).

It is not just the attacks on MacDonough that are so reprehensible but the failure of many Democratic senators to denounce those calls for her firing and the abusive comments being made against her in the popular press. When the rage of our politics turns on parliamentarians, you know that we have become entirely untethered from our core values.

222 thoughts on “Flipping The Byrd: Democrats Demand The Firing Of The Senate Parliamentarian After The Minimum Wage Hike Is Deemed Out of Order”

  1. Off topic but legally simple and fun.

    Lady Gaga’s dogs were stolen and she offered a $500,000 reward for their return with no questions asked.

    They were returned by a lady who claimed to have found them.

    Does she get the reward? I think she does. An offer of a reward is an Offer in contract. The return of the dogs, is Acceptance and Performance. Gaga owes the money.

    Some while back an R&B artist offered a huge reward for a missing laptop.. The laptop was returned but the performer didn’t think he had to pay the reward. He was sued and he lost.


    This article has a little about the dog incident.


  2. This is all well and good professor, however, when the democrats call off the next election and raise an army of idiots to attach anyone opposing them. Will you then say, free speech, they get to attempt an insurrection?

  3. ” Byrd was famous for putting the interests of the Senate and the Constitution before his own party. ”

    Today people on the left don’t see it they are intolerant of people or rules that disagree with what they wish to do. Cannot we all see the radical changes the Democrat Party has undergone?

    “Omar was one of the first to seek action against MacDonough: “Replace the parliamentarian”

    In other words, ‘off with her head’.

  4. “Rules?! Rules don’t apply to us. We are the Voice of the people. Our desire to loot is boundless. Our desire for power, limitless.”

    Lord Acton warned about such power-lusters: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

  5. The childish and thuggish reactions of the majority party is why the Supreme Court is afraid to look at cases regarding election-law violations.

    1. LMAO that you think the Supreme Court is afraid of either party. The Supreme Court regularly rules against plaintiffs and defendants associated with both parties.

      1. Antifa/BLM serves the Democrats’ purposes, or haven’t you noticed? Did you not see the outrageous threats lobbed at Kavanaugh and his family during and now since his confirmation hearings? It doeesn’t stop when it is coming from the Left. Did you see the threats and intimidation directed toward Coney-Barrett and her young family? Open your eyes. The intimidation factor is real.

        1. In other words, you have no evidence that “the Supreme Court is afraid to look at cases regarding election-law violations.” Again: they regularly rule against people and groups from both parties.

          1. Tell the Democrat Party: “You do not simply have a right to do what you want in any way that you want to.”

            And what do they do?

            They attack, intimdate, threaten, harass, censor, shame, lie, defame, spread disinformation, propaganda, and attempt to utterly destroy and remove their opposition. Antifa/BLM/Obama’s OFA activists, etc are all part of the threat and intimidation operation.

            Justice Kavanaugh and his family continue to be harassed, defamed, intimidated, and disrespected by the Left.

            Open your eyes.

            1. Plenty of people are also “harassed, defamed, intimidated, and disrespected by the” Right, including liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

              1. Why do you think it is so hard for any Democrat Party member to condemn Antifa, by name? Because they are the Brown shirts of the Democrat Party.

                1. You’re ignorant, Arty. Both have gotten death threats, as have other liberal judges. The guy who murdered Judge Salas’s son and almost killed her husband also had a file on Justice Sotomayor.

              2. This is like your claim that the media was forthright about the Cuomo scandals. This statement of yours is about as accurate as the one on Cuomo.

                Check out Charles Schumer leading insurrectionists against the Supreme Court.

          2. “In other words, you have no evidence that “the Supreme Court is afraid to look at cases regarding election-law violations.” “

            You have no evidence to the contrary. Considerable thought was put into this question when FDR tried to pack the court. After the attempt certain things passed that didn’t pass before. That is evidence. Where is yours?

  6. Bahahahahahahahahaha!

    You just wrote a column about politicians criticizing others in appointed office, JT. Good for you. Seems to have been a trend at work for some years now in that direction…, glad you’re catching on. Better late than never.

    And I know right? Since Robert Byrd was one of the founders…, no wait, do you actually mean to say he wasn’t??? Thanks for starting the day off with a chuckle, Jon!


    1. “You just wrote a column about politicians criticizing others in appointed office”

      That is not what this column is “about”, numbnuts.

      1. Help me out with your incredible genius there and tell me what you think it’s about then, f^&kwidget?


  7. Am I the only one here who sees following established Rules is a good thing?

    Am I the only one here who thinks making it harder for a Bill to become Law is a good thing?

    Am I the only one here who thinks public debate on Bills and Amendments is a good thing?

    Am I the only one here who thinks ensuring the Minority has some opportunity to pose Amendments and debate Bills and Amendments is a good thing?

  8. What I don’t understand is why SPENDING has no “direct impact on the federal budget.”

  9. What do you expect from a party that is okay with rioting, looting and burning down cities to get their way??

  10. And this kind of thing is happening all over the country. Critical race theory and woke culture are tearing down not just statues, but every value — good along with the bad — that this country has stood for. Who are these intelopers?

    1. Concerning statues…It is 160 years overdue that we tear down statues of confederate soldiers that waged a war to keep slaves. Robert E Lee may have been a smart man, he also thought black people were property. That is not a person worthy of a statue.

    2. To giocon1, 28 Feb 2021, 10:30 AM:
      My Chinese friend told me that what is happening all over the country is the American version of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Similar tactics: set up a dichotomy of a putative “repressive, degenerate” demography versus a “revolutionary, progressive” (woke Social Justice Warriors=Red Guard) demography, encourage the latter to “cancel” the former while tearing down all symbols of old tradition (statues, literature, concepts, ethics standards), call for “re-education” to cut off connection with traditional values and inculcate progressive (Marxist) views, etc. etc. Divide and conquer is the tactic, and so the emphasis on racial identity, sexual and faux-sexual identity, etc. The isolation of individuals by social network services and polarized “news” media into narrow information bubbles, reinforcing individual biases and ignoring or excoriating conflicting viewpoints, adds to the tensions and enmity between groups.
      While all this is going on, those in actual power are enjoying lack of focus on themselves, granting them plenty of leisure to pursue their agendas undisturbed.

      1. fair enough. and do you know how in the end, the Cultural Revolution ended?

        Generals went up to Mao, sick of it all, and gave him an offer he could not refuse. Or else! And how quickly it then ended.

        Unfortunately, today’s woke mob has been set in motion by hundreds of millions of donations, grants, endowments, and other inducements offered by the billionaires for generations, to radicalize the professors, bureaucrats, journalists, etc., thus to prepare us for this planned disorder. So, there is more than just one guy who set this all in motion, and there will be more than one guy to, um, neutralize? counteract? convince? in order to stop it all. And worse yet, these bad ideas will not just stop and go away, if the baddies who endow them stop cutting the checks. No, this is going to be a long haul. A long march back through the institutions. And so far barely even step one has been taken.

        Meanwhile, don’t forget these tormenters are all mercenaries. Look past the mercs to their paymasters: those are our enemies

        Sal Sar

  11. A reminder: “in 2001, when the Senate Parliamentarian “made it harder for the GOP to push President Bush’s budget and tax cut proposals through the evenly divided body,” Republicans simply fired him: https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2001/05/08/key-senate-official-loses-job-in-dispute-with-gop/e2310021-0f14-4667-a261-54e6c033207c/

    I’m not saying that the Democrats should follow their lead. The better solution is to end the Jim Crow filibuster.

    “there is one policy area where Americans are increasingly not divided: raising the minimum wage. The election results in Florida illustrate this shift in public opinion. A ballot initiative to raise the state minimum wage from $8.56 to $15 per hour by 2026 passed with the support of more than 60% of voters. Its success is noteworthy in Florida—a red state with two Republican Senators, a Republican-controlled state legislature, and a Republican governor who opposed the minimum wage hike. … While Florida’s split vote may seem counterintuitive, in fact, recent polls suggest it is consistent with widespread public opinion. Two-thirds (67%) of Americans surveyed last year by the Pew Research Center expressed support for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.”

    But Republicans in the Senate oppose it. Democrats could pass it anyway if they ended the filibuster.

    Sen. Schatz: “The filibuster was never in the constitution, originated mostly by accident, and has historically been used to block civil rights. No legislatures on earth have a supermajority requirement because that’s stupid and paralyzing. It’s time to trash the Jim Crow filibuster.”

  12. The Left never stops until they get their way, just like the little kids that they are. Have 5 liberals on the Court for decades…all good, have 5 conservatives on the Court…pack the Court. Don’t like senate rules…Harry Reid blows it up, like the senate rules…demand fealty. Have control of ABC, NBC, CBS, NPR, The NY Times, Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, CNN and NBC, Hollywood and academia …try to get Fox and Newsmax banned. Control Facebook, Instagram and Twitter…ban Parlor from our lives.

    The Left never stops until they get their way!

    1. There weren’t 5 liberals on the court for decades.

      The Republicans were the ones who fired the Senate Parliamentarian in 2001 when they didn’t like a ruling.

      The Democrats don’t have control over the media.

      1. “The Democrats don’t have control over the media”???? How did you enjoy reading the NY Post on Twitter? How do you like the coverage of Cuomo on CNN? How do you like anonymous sources in the NY Times?

        1. Twitter isn’t part of the news media. I had no problem reading the NY Post on the NY Post website.
          I seldom watch CNN, so I don’t know what CNN’s coverage of Cuomo has been. The allegations of sexual harassment should be promptly investigated and he should resign if they’re true.

          I don’t know which of many anonymous sources you’re talking about at the NYT. I’ll remind you that Mark Meadows was caught on live broadcast telling reporters that he’d say some things off the record, and that wasn’t the first time that the Trump Admin made statements without allowing them to be attributed with a person’s name, so if you have a problem with anonymous sources, make sure that you understand that’s not a “Democrat” issue.

          Thanks for showing us that you really have no basis for your belief that Democrats control the media.

          1. The DNC very likely does not control the media. But Democrats overwhelming fill its ranks, so bias towards that perspective is likely. The ways news gets reported has changed over the decades, too, leading to a greater entrenchment of bias. Matt Taibbi has a great podcast on this drift.

              1. Chuckles. Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter compiled survey data on the political preferences of reporters for decades, with a special focus on the preferences of a sample drawn from a dozen or so national outlets. The preference for the Democratic Party they discovered was on the order of 8-to-1.

            1. Billionaires own the mass media and they pay the DNC to do what they want just like they do their editors and “journalists”

              The group of Western billionaire oligarch globalists is our enemy

              We break them, or they’re going to keep breaking us

              Saloth Sar

              1. Billionaires pay the RNC too, yet you don’t mention that. You’re a fan of the billionaire Trump. You’re consistently biased in your complaints, Sal.

          2. Cuomo Admin. this morning: “we have asked the Attorney General of New York State and the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to jointly select an independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation to conduct a thorough review of the matter and issue a public report. The work product will be solely controlled by that independent lawyer personally selected by the Attorney General and Chief Judge.”

      2. There weren’t 5 liberals on the court for decades.

        1. Hugo Black (1937-71)
        2. Wm. O Douglas (1939-75); John Paul Stevens (1975-2010); Elena Kagan (2010- )
        3. Tom Clark (1949-67); Thurgood Marshall (1967-91)
        4. Earl Warren (1953-69)
        5. Wm Brennan (1956-90); David Souter (1990-2009); Sonia Sotomayor (2009- )
        6. Arthur Goldberg (1962-65); Abe Fortas (1965-69); Harry Blackmun (1970-93); Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993-2020)
        9. Stephen Breyer (1994- )

        1. Lewis Powell (1971-87); Anthony Kennedy (1987-2018)
        4. Warren Burger (1969-86); John Roberts (2005- )
        7. Potter Stewart (1958-81); Sandra Day O’Connor (1981-2005)
        9. Byron White (1962-94)

        3. Clarence Thomas (1991- )
        4. Wm Rehnquist (1986-2005)
        7. Samuel Alito (2006- )
        8. John Marshall Harlan (1955-71); William Rahnquist (1972-86); Antonin Scalia (1986-2016);

        1. Brett Kavanaugh (2018- )
        6. Amy Coney Barrett (2020- )
        8. Neil Gorsuch (2017- )

        Note that three seats were held without interruption by the left bloc from 1962 to 2020. A fourth has been held by the left since 1994. The consistent dissidents have held between 1 and 3 seats over the last 60 years. Whether Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Gorsuch prove to be consistent dissenters or temporizers will depend.

        Note, the court, whatever it’s composition, has done very little to interfere with liberal policy goals. There have been about 6 notable exceptions. (1) The court refused to countenance explicit racial quotas in such things as college admissions (didn’t matter; there’s still a quota); (2) the Court refused to insist you had a constitutional right to a Medicaid funded abortion; (3) The Court refused for a time to declare that state laws criminalizing sodomy were unconstitutional; (4) the Court refused to countenance restrictions on the speech of corporations while a subset thereof favoring the Democratic Party got to say what they pleased; and (5) the Court has understood the 2d Amendment to protect a personal right. Only the last two actually impeded legislative discretion by liberals. The others merely instructed liberals that they had to make use of statutory legislation if they wanted to get their policy goals. The partisan Democrats on this board are in a continual snit about Citizens’ United and Heller, because their primary political object is legal harassment of their enemies and those decisions inhibit that.

        The rest of us have been expected to put in a long string of nonsense decisions imposing the liberal agenda on an unwilling public,, Roe v Wade the most egregious.

          1. That’s not liberal for decades.

            If you move the goalposts around, it isn’t. Big deal.

            If we actually had a court that functioned as an umpire, the number of ‘landmark decisions’ would be very few.

  13. But we can always find something positive in almost all situations. A few ideological voices ( no surprise there) have denounced the parliamentarian, whereas the vast majority of Americans are probably standing with her.

    1. Hardly anyone knows who she is. The thing is, conciliar bodies require regular rules to get business done. Here we have overgrown children stomping their feet.

  14. It’s another indication, in case you needed one, that Democrats play Calivinball and cannot be trusted in any competitive venue, because they fancy fair procedures are what gives them what they want. This will not end well.

  15. In 2017 the Rs put drilling in ANWR into a budget reconciliation bill and JT was just fine with it. This is no different. So you can give up your fake claim to support adherence to Senate rules and just admit you are a partisan hack.

    1. Way to completely miss the point, Molly.

      You and Alexandria are birds of a feather.

    2. In 2017 the Rs put drilling in ANWR into a budget reconciliation bill and JT was just fine with it.

      Citation needed.

      1. MollyG apparently subscribes to e-mail listservs which put this sort of thing in all caps in red.

        1. “subscribes to e-mail listservs” along with committed to dishonesty, Elvis B, and a cavalcade of “Anonymous” DNC trollers here.

          None of whom are capable of having an original thought outside of an occasional freestyle topping addition to a Toasted White Chocolate Mocha which came to them at the bus stop while observing an unusual looking Pigeon after vaping.

    3. MollyG, Prof. Turley is not arguing for what should or should not be a bill that can be passed under recon, but he is speaking out against efforts to undermine the rules, when they produce outcomes not favored..

  16. “I think the parliamentarian is verging on, you know, just really intruding in this legislative process in a very concerning way.” I am not really sure what that actually means.”

    It’s Valley Girl talk, Jonathan.

    Basically it means; “Oh my God! I mean, can you believe that I didn’t get my stuff”.

    She is a stone cold idiot.

    The most amazing thing about the minimum wage debate is that they can’t even reach a middle ground between $7.50 and $15.00. It is either double or nothing. And like most double or nothing bets, the bettor ends up owing double, instead of owing nothing.

  17. Right or wrong no longer matter. Truth and facts no longer matter. The Constitution and the laws no longer matter. The only thing that matters to the new and improved Democrat Party is…”do as we say, or else…”

    How does this differ from a dictatorship?

Comments are closed.