Byrd Rule / Budget Reconciliation Process (

From the Congressional Glossary – Including Legislative and Budget Terms

Byrd Rule

Peacock in full fan, by Kathy McGraw
Peacock in full fan, by Kathy McGraw

The term, named for Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), refers to an amendment to the Congressional Budget Act that bars the inclusion of extraneous matter in any reconciliation legislation considered in the Senate. This provision defines different categories of extraneous matter in any reconciliation legislation considered in the Senate.

The purpose of the Byrd Rule is to limit the contents of reconciliation measures.


How does budget reconciliation work?


The rule governs consideration of reconciliation bills or a conference report thereon (and any resolution changing the enrollment of a reconciliation bill) and allows any Senator to make a point of order that a provision in a reconciliation bill is “extraneous matter” and is subject to being stricken, unless overridden by a vote of 60 Senators.

Under the Byrd Rule, a reconciliation bill may not contain a provision that

  • does not produce a change in outlays or revenues
  • does produce a change in outlays or revenue but the reporting committee is not in compliance with its instructions
  • is outside the jurisdiction of the reporting committee
  • produces a change in outlays or revenues which is “merely incidental” to the substance of the provision
  • increases the deficit beyond the budget window covered by the bill
  • and recommends changes in social security.


Budget Reconciliation Process

Reconciliation is a procedure under the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 by which Congress implements budget resolution policies affecting mainly permanent spending and revenue programs. The principal focus in the reconciliation process has been deficit reduction, but in some years reconciliation has involved revenue reduction generally and spending increases in selected areas. Although reconciliation is an optional procedure, the House and Senate have used it in most years since its first use in 1980 (21 reconciliation bills have been enacted into law and four have been vetoed).

During the first several years’ experience with reconciliation, the legislation contained many provisions that were extraneous to the purpose of implementing budget resolution policies. The reconciliation submissions of committees included provisions that had no budgetary effect, that increased spending or reduced revenues when the reconciliation instructions called for reduced spending or increased revenues, or that violated another committee’s jurisdiction.
In 1985 and 1986, the Senate adopted the Byrd rule (named after its principal sponsor, Senator Robert C. Byrd) on a temporary basis as a means of curbing these practices. The Byrd rule was extended and modified several times over the years. In 1990, the Byrd rule was incorporated into the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 as Section 313 and made permanent (2 U.S.C. 644).

A Senator opposed to the inclusion of extraneous matter in reconciliation legislation may offer an amendment (or a motion to recommit the measure with instructions) that strikes such provisions from the legislation, or, under the Byrd rule, a Senator may raise a point of order against such matter. In general, a point of order authorized under the Byrd rule may be raised in order to strike extraneous matter already in the bill as reported or discharged (or in the conference report), or to prevent the incorporation of extraneous matter through the adoption of amendments or motions. A motion to waive the Byrd rule, or to sustain an appeal of the ruling of the chair on a point of order raised under the Byrd rule, requires the affirmative vote of three-fifths of the membership (60 Senators if no seats are vacant).
The Byrd rule provides six definitions of what constitutes extraneous matter for purposes of the rule (and several exceptions thereto), but the term is generally described as covering provisions unrelated to achieving the goals of the reconciliation instructions.

The Byrd rule has been in effect during Senate consideration of 21 reconciliation measures from late 1985 through the present. Actions were taken under the Byrd rule in the case of 17 of the 21 measures. In total, 72 points of order and 59 waiver motions were considered and disposed of under the rule, largely in a manner that favored those who opposed the inclusion of extraneous matter in reconciliation legislation (62 points of order were sustained, in whole or in part, and 50 waiver motions were rejected).

The Federal Budget Process
The Federal Budget Process

Also see Ch. 7. E. The “Byrd Rule”, in Congressional Procedure; § 7.110, Reconciliation Legislation, in Congressional Deskbook.







The Federal Budget Process 2E

The Federal Budget Process 2E

Pocket Constitution

Pocket Constitution

Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials

Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates

Congressional Procedure

Congressional Procedure, from TheCapitol.Net

For more than 40 years, TheCapitol.Net and its predecessor, Congressional Quarterly Executive Conferences, have been teaching professionals from government, military, business, and NGOs about the dynamics and operations of the legislative and executive branches and how to work with them.

Our custom on-site and online training, publications, and audio courses include congressional operations, legislative and budget process, communication and advocacy, media and public relations, testifying before Congress, research skills, legislative drafting, critical thinking and writing, and more.

TheCapitol.Net is on the GSA Schedule, MAS, for custom on-site and online training. GSA Contract GS02F0192X

TheCapitol.Net is now owned by the Sunwater Institute.

Teaching how Washington and Congress work ™

Select publications from TheCapitol.Net