Is This VP Harris Gambit Real?

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winner with Joe Biden of the presidential election. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM... Vice President-elect Kamala Harris delivers remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 7, 2020, after being declared the winner with Joe Biden of the presidential election. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images) MORE LESS
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February 26, 2021 3:39 p.m.

I’ve been wrestling all day with this claim that Vice President Harris has the unique ability to overrule the Senate parliamentarian on this ruling about the whether the minimum wage hike can be included in the COVID relief bill. Critically, it’s claimed that while the Senate can overrule her it could only do so with 60 votes. That makes all the difference in the world since while all fifty Republicans and Manchin or Manchin and Sinema could overrule her with 52 votes there’s basically no way they get to 60 votes.

But is that 60 vote rule real? Is that what would be needed to overrule Harris?

I had a whole post put together on the politics of this. But then I questioned again whether the 60 vote rule thing was accurate since it’s such a game changer. It doesn’t sound right. I got even more suspicious when I realized that references to it all seemed to trace back to an article by David Sirota in which he references a “secret memo” which makes this claim. All other disagreements aside, Sirota has what I would call a well-earned reputation for tendentious arguments intertwined with his advocacy.

So at this point I started to think that this whole claim was bogus.

But here’s the thing. He’s right! Whatever the “secret memo” says, Sirota seems to be right. Though Sirota didn’t directly link to it, The American Prospect’s David Dayen flags this Congressional Research Service report that backs it up. (This is the report that the “secret memo” purports to reference.) And this one is public and we can read it. See the reference at the bottom for appeals of decisions of rulings of the chair, who in this case would be Harris presiding over the Senate.

So to my surprise, it seems to be the case that it would take 60 votes to overrule Harris, a hill that would be too steep for opponents to climb. The politics remain highly complicated. But I think this is right. For parliamentary and hill types, let me know if this seems right. Because whether or not it is is a pretty big deal at the moment.

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