Dems passed $3.5T budget resolution, but not without GOP extracting pound of political flesh
Senate Republicans forced Democrats to take tough votes on issues ranging from critical race theory to abortion to fracking during a 14-hour “Vote-a-Rama” Tuesday and Wednesday as they put up resistance to the budget resolution that opens the door for Democrats to pass a $3.5 trillion spending plan.
The Vote-a-Rama – in which senators can bring nonbinding amendments up for votes until they get tired of doing so – is a necessary procedural step in budget reconciliation. Democrats are using that process to sidestep the legislative filibuster in the Senate, therefore allowing them to pass a wish list of programs without input from Republicans.
But GOP senators extracted their pound of flesh during the Vote-a-Rama, getting Democrats on the record on dozens of issues that could serve as messaging points during the 2022 midterms. They even forced Democrats to split into several issues, therefore successfully passing some of their amendments.
One of those victories was an amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton R-Ark., supporting banning federal funds from backing critical race theory in schools. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined all 49 Republicans present to vote in favor of the amendment.
“Today some want to replace our founding principles with critical race theory, want to teach our children America is not a good nation but a racist nation,” Cotton said on the Senate floor. “Those teachings are wrong, and our tax dollars should not support them.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., meanwhile said the amendment was “an attempt to force the federal government to interfere with local school districts’ decisions.” But the amendment passed with Manchin’s support.
Republicans forced Democrats to split into several other votes. Eight Democrats backed a proposal from Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning fracking. Four Democrats voted for an amendment by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., opposing any policies from the Department of Agriculture that would cut federal funding to fossil fuel plants.
“A fracking ban would weaken national security, increase global emissions, and take more money out of the pockets of hardworking Americans,” Cramer tweeted. “By enacting one, Democrats would be putting their reckless agenda ahead of the needs of their constituents. Glad my amendment passed.”
Four Democrats – both Nevada senators and Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H. – voted in favor of an amendment that supported more resources for deporting criminal illegal aliens. Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., introduced that amendment.
And all but nine Democrats voted in favor of an amendment from Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, that would support building renewable energy technology with parts that are made and sourced in America, rather than China.
All Democrats, meanwhile, voted against an amendment from Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opposing changes some Democrats are asking for to reinstate the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which provides tax relief to wealthy people in blue states. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., counterpunched, introducing an amendment in favor of a progressive tax code in which the wealthy pay more than their proportional share. No Republicans voted for that.
Nearly all Democrats, meanwhile, opposed an amendment from Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., supporting a ban on abortions of children with Down syndrome. Manchin joined Republicans in supporting the amendment while Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposed it.
“Senate Democrats just voted to allow the most lethal kind of discrimination imaginable: being singled out and brutally killed because of a Down syndrome diagnosis,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., tweeted. “Every life is precious, no matter how small, no matter how many chromosomes they may have.”
All Republicans backed an amendment from Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., to oppose federal funding for abortion. His amendment was passed with support from Manchin. And an amendment from Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., supporting banning abortion after 20 weeks, failed despite Manchin’s support – Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Collins opposed it.
Republicans are likely to be satisfied that they scored plenty of political points during the all-night Vote-a-Rama. But at least one Democrat is saying they made a critical mistake.
“I am so excited. This is perhaps the highlight of this long torturous night. This is a gift,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said Tuesday evening.
Booker was reacting to an amendment from Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., opposing the defunding of police.
“If it wasn’t a complete abdication of Senate procedures and esteem, I would walk over there and hug my colleague from Alabama,” Booker added in an exaggerated tone. “There are some people who have said that there are members of this deliberative body that want to defund the police… This senator has given us the gift of finally once and for all we can put to bed the scurrilous accusation.”
After the marathon of votes, Democrats finally managed to pass the budget resolution, which will now go to the House for approval, officially triggering the budget reconciliation process.
But that’s where the hard work begins for Democrats. They still have to draft the massive piece of legislation and wrangle the votes they need to pass it – that means all 50 Democratic senators and nearly all House Democrats. That is looking like an increasingly tall task with House moderates expressing concerns about the price tag of the reconciliation package and multiple moderate senators saying they don’t support the effort in its current form.
“Early this morning, I voted ‘YES’ on a procedural vote to move forward on the budget reconciliation process because I believe it is important to discuss the fiscal policy future of this country,” Manchin said Wednesday. “However, I have serious concerns about the grave consequences facing West Virginians and every American family if Congress decides to spend another $3.5 trillion.”
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., made a similar statement last month.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats’ spending plan is worth it
“What we’re doing here is not easy. Democrats have labored for months to reach this point, and there are many labors to come,” he said. “But I can say with absolute certainty that it will be worth doing. The Democratic budget will bring a generational transformation to how our economy works for average Americans.”