Senate dives into budget 'vote-a-rama'
March 22nd, 2013
04:06 PM ET
2 years ago

Senate dives into budget 'vote-a-rama'

Washington (CNN) – Hours of non-stop voting is underway in the Senate that could last until the wee hours of Saturday morning as lawmakers consider dozens of amendments to a Democratic budget proposal.

The "vote-a-rama," as it's known on Capitol Hill, typically is an annual affair each budget season. However, because this is the first formal budget Senate Democrats have put on the floor in four years, almost half the current senators haven't been through the demanding and exhaustive practice that is the result of an open-ended amendment process.

The budget itself is a non-binding blueprint for 2014 that is supposed to set the funding levels for the various government agencies. But because those amounts were set already as part of last year's debt ceiling agreement, this year's budget is really a political document that outlines priorities for the Democrats who control the Senate.

Authored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Washington, the proposal increases government spending – including repealing the automatic spending cuts required by sequestration – and raises taxes on the wealthy. While it reduces the deficit over 10 years, it stands in sharp contrast to the House budget, written by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, that passed the House Wednesday. The Ryan plan slashes trillions of dollars from government accounts and balances the budget in just 10 years.

In some years the House and Senate budgets are reconciled, however, that is not expected to happen this year.

"The budget we're debating this week puts our middle class families first," Murray said. "It reflects our pro-growth, pro-middle class agenda that the American people went to the polls in support of just a few months ago."

The top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee disagreed.

"Our chair says this is a pro-growth, pro-middle class budget. I say it's a pro-tax, pro-spend, pro-debt budget," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama. "It's a budget that comes nowhere near doing the things necessary to put America on a sound path."

While Democratic leaders are confident the bill will pass, there are several moderate Democrats, including some up for re-election, who are concerned about the steep tax hikes in the bill and may vote against it.

"Were going to have lots of votes today," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, warned Friday morning. "Everybody is going to be tired."

Reid said 400 amendments had been filed although he said most years between 25 and 35 are voted on during these extended voting sessions. Each vote takes about 15 minutes to complete.
Some of the amendments are designed to put a political squeeze on members of the opposite party. For instance, on Thursday night, Murray offered up Ryan's budget for a vote, forcing Senate Republicans to say whether they are for or against the deep spending cuts and entitlement changes in his plan that Democrats argue are destructive and unrealistic.

For his part, Sessions offered an amendment to require Democrats to present a budget that balances in 10 years – something Murray's budget doesn't do and President Obama's is not expected to do when he unveils his soon.

Democrats and Republicans came together on one amendment that passed overwhelmingly. It would strip from Obamacare a tax on medical devices that has been unpopular since it was created.

Other amendments will deal with a range of social and economic issues from raising or slashing taxes, preserving insurance coverage for contraception, and hiring veterans. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said they will offer an amendment to block the TSA from allowing small knives on airplanes.

This year, senators have an extra personal incentive to pass a budget. That's because of a new "no budget, no pay" provision that says if a budget is not passed by April 15, senators salaries will be held in escrow until a budget is approved.

While all the Republican and possibly a handful of Democrats will vote against the proposal, a budget is expected to pass - even if it takes until the middle of the night.


Filed under: Budget • Senate
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Eeek,
    Raise them Taxes Patty, raise them Taxes. The Liars will figure and the Figures will lie but Raise them Taxes Patty. And remember, the Vaudville Motto: WITH YOUR MONEY AND MY BRAINS, WE WILL GO PLACES.

    March 22, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "the proposal increases government spending – including repealing the automatic spending cuts required by sequestration – and raises taxes on the wealthy"

    And there we have it. CNN has accepted and is now promoting the GOP/Teatrolls' partisan talking point that the sequestration cuts are to be considered "the new normal" and establish the baseline for any budget negotiations. They don't and shouldn't, because they were designed to be draconic and irresponsible, but CNN has clearly decided they that they will support the GOP/Teatrolls' side of the argument by stating, as if it is to be considered accepted fact, that any budget proposal that has spending levels greater than the sequester is "increasing spending." It's the same nonsense the GOP/Teatrolls pulled in terms of claiming that the Bush tax cuts should be permanent, when they were never intended to be, weren't written to be and were promised not to be...and their subsequent nonsense arguments that letting them expire as written was "raising taxes."

    March 22, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. DENNA

    "No budget, no pay" Love this concept. Boehner, Cantor & Co. should return theirs altogether. Opposing everything the President wants is not doing your job. Ripping off social security and medicare should be against the law. The people who use these government programs have paid into them. The Republicans cannot seem to get this concept. I understand they are plotting to win elections in the future. Why don't they plot to serve the public of all political parties? That better sense.

    March 22, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "Democrats and Republicans came together on one amendment that passed overwhelmingly. It would strip from Obamacare a tax on medical devices that has been unpopular since it was created. "

    In other words, if we're to accept CNN and the GOP/Teatrolls' logic about the sequester establishing a "new normal" and the baseline for all budget negotiations (total idiocy), then this was a tax cut and effectively represents the GOP/Teatrolls voting for $29 BILLION in what reallyk just amounts to new spending, which is the estimated amount of revenue the 2/3% tax would ahve generated. Boom...$29B jus spent by GOPers/Teatroll in corporate welfare for compaies already making billions in profits AND already receiving our tax money int he form of subsidies etc. Except CNN just helped whitewash that fact. IOKIYAR

    March 22, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    However, because this is the first formal budget Senate Democrats have put on the floor in four years, .......

    The budget itself is a non-binding blueprint for 2014 that is supposed to set the funding levels for the various government agencies. But because those amounts were set already as part of last year's debt ceiling agreement, this year's budget is really a political document that outlines priorities for the Democrats who control the Senate.
    ----------------------–
    In other words, it's what I always keep saying. What is the point of a budget when it has already been pre-empted by a Continuing Resolution? We've been running on CR's ever since 2008 when TARP was passed. That's why Senate Democrats haven't passed a budget in four years. Even if they did, it would be non-binding. Time better spent solving real problems.

    March 22, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  6. freedom

    The White House, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court Justices and everyone who crammed Obamacare into law should have to live under its mandates. A legislation has been submitted along these lines – and I'm all for it.

    March 22, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. freedom

    Also, the president should leave the country more often (on his own dime). The senators seem to get a lot more work done without his huge EGO in the way.

    March 22, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. Political non believer

    Do something right for a change. This alone will shock hell out of most voters. You've done for yourselves, now do something for the people.

    March 22, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. Chris

    Sen Murray said what? You have to be kidding me with this quote: "pro-growth"....These idiots have yet to put together a budget, have grown the economy at 1% per year compared to a historical 3% per year, blame everything on Bush and the need for taxes. GDP = C + I + G + NX....Increasing G only increases C while decreasing I and NX, it really is that simple. America used to be based on increasing I so that we increased NX and C, now it is all about more government and less economy. Pro growth, I would like to slap that man.

    March 22, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  10. June

    I read the Dems plan and it is a good and modest start focusing on closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and other loopholes that most deem frivolous anyway – including republicans. If in the end they would in raising premium contributions for the wealthy for medicare that even the conservative Heritage Foundation endorsed, and that would help too. I wish they had education money in there for the preschools. But, all and all, it saves nearly a trillion more than the sequester and it is quite harmless by comparison.

    March 22, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. buongiorno

    your not that clever

    March 22, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |