Conrad increasingly frustrated with budget amendments

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who is managing Wednesday's tedious budget vote-a-rama on the Senate floor, is expressing more and more frustration with colleagues after each budget amendment.

Conrad is trying to quickly dispense with votes on budget amendments by having senators to agree to voice votes instead of calling for roll call votes, each of which take at least 10 minutes. Conrad, noting that about 200 amendments remain, said warned that the senators could be at work for another three days.

"It has run amok this year," Conrad said. "For some reason this year, we have hundreds of amendments out there, and people are just stuck. Even when they could get a voice vote and it would pass, they still want [roll call] votes."

Conrad's fellow senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan (D), suggested that the Senate accept all of the amendments en masse and then have the House-Senate conference discard them.

The series of votes on budget amendments -- known as "vote-a-rama" -- has become a yearly tradition. Last year, the budget debate lasted until about 3 a.m.

At the start of Wednesday's session, Senate aides had held out promise that this year's vote-a-rama wouldn't last as long. They noted that the votes on amendments had started in the morning. The Senate and House go on recess for two weeks after they finish with their budget resolutions.

- Walter Alarkon