Several points of order apply to the budget reconciliation process to ensure it is used only for certain purposes.
Decisions about spending, revenue and budget processes established in a budget resolution are enforced in the House and Senate mainly through a procedural hurdle known as a “point of order.” Points of order may be raised by a House or Senate member against legislation or an amendment if it violates spending and revenue levels as contained in the most recent budget resolution or if it violates other budget laws and rules. A point of order, if raised, removes a bill, amendment, or offending provision from legislative consideration. In the House, points of order can be waived by a simple majority vote. In the Senate, some points of order can be waived with a simple majority, but most require a higher threshold to waive, usually 60 votes. It is important to note, however, that a member of the House or Senate must first raise a point of order to strike an offending provision or prevent the consideration of legislation or an amendment that violates a budget rule. Often times a point of order applies to a bill or an amendment, but no Member will raise it.
A number of points order apply to budget reconciliation legislation. These points of order are intended to ensure that the reconciliation process is used only for certain purposes. If a point or order applies to a reconciliation bill considered in the Senate, the reconciliation bill effectively loses its special filibuster-proof status. This is because points of order that apply to a reconciliation bill in the Senate require a three-fifths vote to waive, while the reconciliation bill requires only a majority vote to pass.
The “Byrd Rule” point of order (313) applies to provisions in a reconciliation bill (or amendments) that do not have as their primary effect reducing or increasing federal revenues and/or spending. The Byrd Rule point of order also applies to any amendment to reconciliation legislation that would increase the deficit in any one year beyond the years covered by the budget resolution. The point of order does not prevent consideration of the underlying bill, only the offending provision. A separate point of order (202(a)) applies to reconciliation legislation or an amendment that would increase the federal budget deficit or reduce a revenue surplus in the upcoming fiscal year, the next six or the next eleven fiscal years. Another point of order (310(d)(2)) applies to any amendment to reconciliation legislation that would prevent the reconciliation bill from meeting spending or revenue instructions adopted in the budget resolution.