Friday: Lots of budget votes today and into Saturday morning

— Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), to boost funding to enforce equal pay policies,

— Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), to prevent new tax increases when unemployment is higher than 5.5 percent,

— Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), to repeal the 2010 healthcare law,

— Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to provide tax relief for low- and middle-income families,

— Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), to repeal the tax increases in the 2010 healthcare law, and

— Sen. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), to ensure the protection of women's access to healthcare.

By 3 p.m., the Senate is expected to start a massive series of votes, as unlimited amendments are allowed on the budget resolution. As of late Thursday, there was no estimate for an end to this process, which has been branded with the unfortunate name "vote-a-rama."

It's expected to drift well into early Saturday morning — the end of it may simply depend on how tired senators get.

ADVERTISEMENT
Based on the amendments filed so far, votes could be taken on any number of issues that have been debated over the last year. This could include issues like the legality of drone strikes against Americans on U.S. soil, cutting taxes, ending offshore tax havens, repealing the healthcare law, gun control, immigration and even withholding the pay of White House officials if the budget is late.

While the votes are potentially interesting, they are votes to add language to a non-binding budget resolution. Making them even less useful, approved amendments will become part of a budget plan that seems unlikely to be reconciled with the House-passed budget.

The House-passed budget slows the growth of spending, cuts taxes and balances in 10 years, while the Senate plan calls for $1 trillion in new taxes and never balances. It's difficult to imagine how to reconcile these two plans, and there are no outward signs so far that the House and Senate will even try.

At the same time, some of the amendment votes may send some interesting signals about the willingness of the Senate to make policy changes. For example, the Senate on Thursday voted 79-20 in favor of language that would end the 2.3 percent medical device tax — a sign that the Senate opposes the tax, even though it remains unclear how aggressively the Senate will push for a binding vote against it.

The House finished its work on Thursday by passing the GOP budget plan and the 2013 continuing resolution, and is now out for the next two weeks.