In Stimulus Debate, Senate Parliamentarian Holds Broad Sway

Throughout the impeachment continuing this month, Ms. MacDonough spent hours on the Senate dais, advising Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, as he performed the unprecedented function of presiding over the trial of a former president. She and her advisers have supplied steerage to Democratic senators as they change into accustomed — a few of them for the primary time, others for the primary time in years — to overseeing Senate enterprise as the brand new majority social gathering.

Ms. MacDonough has served as parliamentarian since 2012, when she was named to the job underneath a Democratic majority. A civil servant who has by no means instantly labored for a politician, she labored as a legislative reference assistant within the Senate library after which as an editor of the Congressional Report earlier than being employed on the parliamentarian’s workplace in 1999.

“Referee, umpire, no matter phrase you need to use — they’re guided by the principles of the physique as established by the physique,” stated Bob Stevenson, a retired longtime Republican aide who labored for the Senate Funds Committee and former Senator Invoice Frist of Tennessee, the bulk chief. “Similar to a very good referee in basketball or a very good umpire in baseball would inform you an identical factor: The very best result’s one the place you stay nameless.”

In her early days within the parliamentarian’s workplace, Ms. MacDonough honed her understanding of the fundamentals underneath Mr. Byrd himself, who would often cease by to pepper her with procedural queries in what she would later describe within the 2018 speech as “a Socratic technique on steroids” that provided “a humbling and horrible method to begin on daily basis.”

“I didn’t such as you if you first began; I didn’t assume you’ll quantity to a lot,” Ms. MacDonough recalled Mr. Byrd telling her. “However oh my, how you’ve got shocked me.”

As Democrats transfer ahead with Mr. Biden’s financial plan with the finances reconciliation course of, it now falls to Ms. MacDonough to enact Mr. Byrd’s rule. It’s a high-stakes job; in 2001, the parliamentarian on the time, Robert B. Dove, was unceremoniously ousted from his place after Republican leaders took challenge together with his rulings.

The rule’s title lends itself to plenty of bird-related puns generally used to explain the phases of the reconciliation course of. There’s the “Byrd tub,” when senators can lodge objections to objects they imagine violate the rule, and Ms. MacDonough scrubs and analyzes them to make a judgment. Something that doesn’t survive the scrutiny is named a “Byrd dropping,” and is faraway from the laws earlier than it will probably advance.

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