Budgets in Washington seem about as meaningful as budgets for regular people. You might have a budget in mind for yourself – a certain number of dollars per week for gas, food and lodging. But the budget, on its own, doesn’t exactly stop you from buying a latte you didn’t budget for. You don’t need the latte. You may not be able to afford the latte. And yet a latte you shall have. Think of that, in the inverse and on steroids, when you read about President Joe Biden’s $6 trillion budget proposal. Coffee drinkers might be blowing through their budgets on the back end, but Biden has made his budget for the US so massive that you can only imagine it shrinking as it approaches law. He needs the okay from Congress, which will have the opportunity in the coming months to write its own budget. It seems nearly impossible that Democrats have a majority in the Senate for anything close to what Biden is proposing – but it will be the starting point for negotiations. A massive investment in America. The President wants to build up roads and bridges, transition the country away from a fuel-based economy, granting kids more guaranteed education and helping parents pay for childcare. Unlike the latte, an unnecessary perk, Biden will say his priorities are investments in the future and the just rewards for Americans who work and pay the taxes that pay for these programs. This is how they’ll benefit from the spending: A list of priorities that have little chance of happening. Biden’s budget is important because it formally lays out his priorities, even though it has exactly zero chance of becoming law. Congress doesn’t even vote on it, although lawmakers will apply it to the appropriations process and consider elements in separate pieces of legislation. It’s an opening bid and will help put Democrats on Capitol Hill on the same page. Their argument is that a government working harder for more people is more important than keeping spending in check. The debt, in other words, is worth it. Massive. Trillions! There is not an appropriate word to describe the scale of this spending. Debt would eventually eclipse the size of the economy, which it hasn’t done since World War II. Biden’s budget is not the only budget. The House and Senate will pass and then reconcile their own budgets, which will still mostly be a notional document. The actual taxpayer money is spent through a different process, called appropriations. A first step toward budget reconciliation. The House and Senate budget process is important, however, because it is the first step in unlocking the budget reconciliation process, laid out in the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, which is really the only way today’s lawmakers can get around the mutually assured obstruction that plagues Capitol Hill and pass legislation with a simple majority vote. Related: Here’s what budget reconciliation is (and why it matters) If Democrats are to realize any of Biden’s priorities in any form anywhere close to his vision, it’ll almost certainly be through this budget reconciliation process, assuming they can get every Democrat in the Senate to agree to bypass Republicans. The process was created to help constrain government spending, but has mutated as the go-to method to get big things done. Budget reconciliation has been used to: In this way, Biden’s budget is both relatively meaningless as something that won’t be passed into law, but also a crucial element to the budget process – one that is essential to accomplishing anything at all. Political documents vs. policy proposals. A prime example of the political importance of budgets came in 2012, when Paul Ryan, then the GOP’s vice presidential candidate, was attacked for his House budget proposal, which would have drastically pared back government spending, including on Medicare and Social Security. Scaring voters with elements of Ryan’s budget proposal was a key (and successful) part of the Obama-Biden reelection strategy that year. Those days of peak fear about the national debt seem like a long time ago, long before Ryan, as House Speaker, helped blow the national debt up by passing Trump-era tax cuts. Republicans today are primed to use Biden’s budget as exhibit number one in their argument that by giving Americans more from government, Democrats are pursuing socialism. New warning from the old GOP. Ryan, who left Washington for Wall Street when Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives under President Donald Trump in 2019, was back in the news this week, raising the alarm about Trump, although he barely used the former President’s name. “If the conservative cause depends on the populist appeal of one personality, or on second-rate imitations, then we’re not going anywhere,” Ryan said in a speech at the Reagan library this week. His warning was drowned out by theater back in Washington, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is focused on regaining control of Capitol Hill in next year’s midterms. He has been actively trying to kill a bipartisan review of the January 6 insurrection with a pressure campaign on fellow Republicans, hoping to move on from Trump and focus on opposing Democrats. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the Alaska Republican who supports a commission, offered a rare public and vocal rebuke of the party leaders. “Is that really what this is about is everything is just one election cycle after another? Or are we going to acknowledge that as a country that is based on these principles of democracy that we hold so dear?” she complained to reporters. Majorities up for grabs. The paradox here is that despite all the warnings from old-school Republicans worried about the party, Republicans stand a very good chance of retaking control of one or both chambers of Congress in November 2022. Democrats have a slim seven-seat advantage in the House and the Senate is evenly split. CNN’s latest guide to which Senate seats are likely to flip in the coming 2022 midterm election was out this week and while Democrats have the opportunity to pick up seats in states Trump lost, like Pennsylvania, they face the prospect of defending seats in states Biden carried narrowly, like Georgia and Pennsylvania. Just eight of the 34 seats up for grabs are seen as competitive and four are currently held by each party. Nobody will have a very strong majority come 2023, but Biden will only be able to use budget reconciliation to accomplish anything if he can keep majorities, much less break a filibuster to pass one of the massive programs he envisions in his budget.