Senators pass guidelines for budget committee
© Getty Images

Senators laid out instructions for a budget conference committee Wednesday, using procedural votes to stress policy issues they want their colleagues to focus on.

Many of the votes were on things already included in the Senate's budget resolution. For example, senators passed a motion from Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) telling conferees to require that the final budget grant Social Security and Veterans Affairs Department benefits to legally married same-sex couples. 
While most of the procedural measures passed overwhelmingly, Republicans blocked four Democratic proposals. 
A measure by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (D-Mass.) on student loan reform, which would have been paid for by increasing taxes on higher earners, was voted down 45-52. A similar budget amendment from Warren also failed last month. 
Republicans also blocked an effort by Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiBottom Line Listen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi to reclaim Speakership amid shutdown MORE (D-Md.) to tell conference members to include her equal-pay measure, a measure from Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Dems blast rulemaking on family planning program | Facebook may remove anti-vaccine content | Medicare proposes coverage for new cancer treatment Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators seek answers on surprise medical bills | Red states move to limit Medicaid expansion | Two drug companies agree to testify Senate Dems block Sasse measure meant to respond to Virginia bill MORE (D-Wash.) on sequester relief, and one from Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress must step up to protect Medicare home health care The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Will there be any last-minute shutdown drama? Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — Utah tests Trump on Medicaid expansion | Dems roll out Medicare buy-in proposal | Medicare for all could get hearing next month | Doctors group faces political risks on guns MORE (D-Mich.) on blocking Medicare cuts. 
The back-to-back votes, none of which are binding, kept senators on the floor for approximately three hours, in what staffers were calling a "mini vote-a-rama." 
Lawmakers will use the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate budgets.