Senate set to sit long into the night wth a ‘vote-a-rama’


Senators face a long night at work Thursday as they begin the process to move through President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal without Republican support in a marathon ‘vote-a-rama’ session.

Later this afternoon, the 50 hours of debate will end on the budget resolution, which Democrats are using to move Biden’s COVID plan through Congress with a process known as ‘reconciliation.’

And while reconciliation is a nifty tool that shrinks the required vote total from 60 to 51 senators for passage, it also includes a painful legislation process known as the ‘vote-a-rama.’ 

In a vote-a-rama, any senator can file an amendment to the resolution. 

Republicans, who oppose Biden’s plan due to its hefty price tag, have vowed to inflict maximum pain. 

More than 500 amendments have already been filed. They range from preserving Donald Trump’s border wall to reversing President Biden’s decision to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. 

Voting could go all night and into Friday.

Senators face a long night of work on the budget resolution, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) is using as a vehicle to move President Joe Biden's COVID relief proposal through without Republican support

Senators face a long night of work on the budget resolution, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) is using as a vehicle to move President Joe Biden’s COVID relief proposal through without Republican support

Republicans, led by Leader Mitch McConnell, have proposed more than 500 amendments as part of a 'vote-a-rama' that will last all night and possibly into Friday

Republicans, led by Leader Mitch McConnell, have proposed more than 500 amendments as part of a ‘vote-a-rama’ that will last all night and possibly into Friday

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer vowed Thursday to see it through, saying that when the vote-a-rama ‘is complete, at whatever hour, we’ll vote on final passage.’

Some senators have already bemoaned the free-for-all ahead of them. Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii called it ‘the worst part of the United States Senate.’

‘We need to remember what this is all about. This is not about a goofy 10-hour or 12-hour or 15-hour process where we stack amendments and try to set each other up, that we’ll somehow trick someone into taking a bad position that can be turned into a campaign advertisement,’ Schatz said on the Senate floor. ‘It is nonsense, and everybody should ignore it if they can. Do anything to not watch vote-a-rama.’

Most legislation must get at least 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to pass. But the chamber is divided 50-50 and Republicans are no votes on the matter.

Reconciliation would allow the Senate’s 48 Democrats and two independents to approve the relief package with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. 

But reconciliation has its price and that price is the hazing that comes from the minority party during the vote-a-rama.

The biggest vote-a-rama to ate was in 2008, when senators voted on 44 amendments.  Thursday’s will be nearly 10 times that.

‘Senate Republicans will be ready and waiting with a host of amendments to improve the rushed procedural step that’s being jammed through,’ Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned in a speech on the Senate floor.

‘We’ll be getting senators on the record about whether taxpayers should fund checks for illegal immigrants, whether Democrats should raise taxes on small businesses in the midst of this historic crisis and whether generous federal funding should pour into school districts where the unions refuse to let schools open,’ McConnell said. ‘And this is just a small taste.’

President Biden doubled down on his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on Wednesday but also expressed optimism he’ll get Republican support for the plan despite their concerns about the cost.

The president reassured Democrats he has their back as they lay the groundwork to muscle through Biden’s proposal – without Republican votes if necessary.

Biden called into the House Democratic Caucus weekly meeting on Wednesday morning, where he reassured his party a Republican proposal for $600 billion in relief is ‘not even in the cards.’ 

‘I’m not going to start my administration by breaking a promise to the American people,’  he said. 

The president, in his five minute pep talk, told House Democrats to stick together.

‘I have your back and you will have mine,’ he said according to Politico.  

President Joe Biden doubled down on his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, reassuring Democrats he has their back as they muscle it through Congress

President Joe Biden doubled down on his $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, reassuring Democrats he has their back as they muscle it through Congress

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Democratic Senators in the Oval Office on Wednesday about COVID relief

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met with Democratic Senators in the Oval Office on Wednesday about COVID relief

Democratic senators wore face masks and were socially distanced for their meeting with Biden

Democratic senators wore face masks and were socially distanced for their meeting with Biden

During his meeting with Democrats senators, Biden expressed hope he'd get some Republican support on COVID relief

During his meeting with Democrats senators, Biden expressed hope he’d get some Republican support on COVID relief

Biden also vowed to boost stimulus checks to $2,000, by adding another $1,400 in direct payments as part of his relief measure. 

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris also met with Democratic senators on the COVID relief proposal in the Oval Office, where the president expressed optimism that some Republicans will support his plan.

‘I think we’ll get some Republicans,’ he said. 

After the meeting, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that ‘there’s agreement, universal agreement we must go big and bold.’

He echoed Biden’s hope that Republicans would join them.  

‘We want to do it bipartisan, but we must be strong. We cannot dawdle, we cannot delay, we cannot dilute, because the troubles that this nation has and the opportunities that we can bring them are so large,’ he said. ‘So we’re gonna all work together with this president, we are united as one big whole package, working with our Republican friends, when we can.’ 

The day of meetings comes as Republicans accuse Congressional leadership and White House staff of interfering with Biden’s wish to have a bipartisan proposal. 

The White House called the report ‘ludicrous.’ 

‘I’ve seen some of those reports. Some many of them are ludicrous,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday when asked if there were differences between Biden and his staff on COVID relief. 

‘I sat in a lot of meetings with the President of the United States in the last few weeks and even before then. There is no one who’s going to tell him what to do or hold him back from his commitment to delivering relief to the American people and I would point you to the fact that he talked about the importance of going big on a package back to the campaign,’ she added.

Biden met with Republican senators in the Oval Office Monday to discuss their compromise measure, which contained about one-third of the amount of relief funds he wanted. After the meeting concluded the White House made it clear the $600 billion the GOP proposed was not enough money.

Republicans argued, however, the president seemed willing to cut a deal but was stopped by his staff and Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

‘Our members who were in the meeting felt that the president seemed to be more interested in [a bipartisan agreement] than his staff did, or it seems like the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate,’ Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon. 

Given Democratic control of the House and Senate, the GOP has limited legislative power, particularly after Pelosi and Schumer began the process to pass Biden’s proposal through reconciliation – a legislative maneuver that allows them to pass the measure with a simple majority.  

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that 'there's agreement, universal agreement we must go big and bold' on COVID relief

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that ‘there’s agreement, universal agreement we must go big and bold’ on COVID relief

Republicans are accusing Democratic congressional leadership of interfering with President Joe Biden's wish to have a bipartisan proposal on COVID relief

Republicans are accusing Democratic congressional leadership of interfering with President Joe Biden’s wish to have a bipartisan proposal on COVID relief

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the charge against White House staff and Democratic congressional leadership

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the charge against White House staff and Democratic congressional leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Republicans made the charge after Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi began the process to muscle through COVID relief without them

‘My sense is the president would be more forward-leaning working with both sides, but there are pressures up here on the Hill, including Schumer and Pelosi seem less interested,’ Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio told Punchbowl News. ‘It’s hard to read his staff, but they didn’t seem all that interested in finding common ground.’

Portman was in Monday night’s Oval Office meeting, which was attended by the president,  Harris, senior White House staff and 10 Republican senators.    

White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued Tuesday that reconciliation doesn’t mean Republicans are cut out of the process.

‘Republicans can engage and see their ideas adopted. At any point in the process, a bipartisan bill can pass on the floor. So just creating the option for reconciliation with a budget resolution does not foreclose other legislative options,’ she said at her press briefing. 

‘Republican ideas can be adopted during the reconciliation negotiations, and it is likely that several bipartisan ideas may be — or we are certainly hopeful of that,’ she added, pointing out Republicans can also offer amendments to the proposal as it makes its way through the legislative process.   





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