Senate to start amendment votes on budget this evening

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that the Senate would begin votes on the budget Thursday evening while it continues debating the resolution.

Reid said that starting at 8:10 p.m., there would be as many as five votes on amendments.

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He also said that more amendments would be considered at 11 a.m. Friday.

The Senate is still using up the 50 hours of required debate on the budget resolution proposed by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

At this point, the Senate will continue debate on the budget into Friday evening, unless time is yielded back. Then it will have a "vote-a-rama" on an unlimited number of germane amendments.

On Thursday night, the Senate will vote on amendments from Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Murray.

Sessions's motion to recommit the budget to the committee would simply support balancing the budget. The Senate Democratic budget does not project a balance, and voting against the Sessions amendment, which does not say only spending cuts need to be used, could be treacherous for vulnerable Democrats.

Hatch's amendment targets a 2.3 percent medical device tax that was enacted as part of the president's healthcare law. His amendment has support from Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D) and Al Franken (D).

Stabenow's amendment would prevent Medicare from becoming a voucher program.

Grassley's amendment would require that tax revenue be used to pay down the deficit rather than pay for spending increases.

Murray's amendment would force Senate Republicans to vote for the budget proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), which passed the House Thursday morning on a 221-207 vote.

Ryan balances the budget over 10 years by cutting projected spending by $5.7 trillion. Democrats have criticized the plan because it would "gut" programs that benefit the middle class and turn Medicare into a voucher system.

The Democratic budget has already come under heavy fire from Republicans who say it over-estimates the extent to which it would reduce the deficit, and raises $1 trillion in new taxes. Democrats say their budget cuts the deficit by $1.85 trillion over 10 years through an equal amount of spending cuts and new revenue, but the GOP has said that because it assumes the sequester will not happen, the amount of deficit reduction is closer to $700 billion.

Under budget rules, amendments need only a majority to pass.

—This post was updated at 7:43 p.m.