Senate heading toward late-night marathon session

Greg Nash

The Senate is poised to pull an all-nighter on Wednesday as Republicans rush to pass the guidelines for repealing ObamaCare.

Senators will kick off a marathon voting session, informally known as a vote-a-rama, around 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Lawmakers can use the hours-long voting block to force a vote on any amendment to the budget resolution, which is being used as a vehicle for the rules on nixing the Affordable Care Act.

Once any measure a senator wants a vote on is taken up, the Senate will then vote on the overall budget resolution, which will pave the way for repealing ObamaCare and is expected to pass along a party-line vote.

Republicans will need 51 votes to pass the ObamaCare rules. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has said he will vote against the budget because it doesn’t balance.

Asked what time he thought senators would wrap up, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) simply said “late, late.”

Maintenance staff brought in cots for senators earlier in the week.

{mosads}Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also indicated this week that votes could stretch into the early hours of Thursday morning.

“You’ll have the final package when we get to the end probably late Wednesday night or Thursday morning,” he told reporters at a weekly press conference.

There is precedent for such a vote going into the early hours. For example, a vote-a-rama held in 2015 wrapped up after 3 a.m.

Democrats are planning to force votes on amendments tied to ObamaCare and entitlement programs as they try to get Republicans on the record.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) appealed to Republicans earlier Wednesday urging them to step back from their effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 
“If Republicans go forward with this plan, they may mollify their base, but they will ostracize and hurt the American people, and ultimately lose in the court of public opinion,” he said. 
Schumer added that the current divisions among Republicans on how to repeal and replace ObamaCare to the “Abbot and Costello show”, with both the Trump administration and congressional Republicans urging each other to bring up a repeal plan. 
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) noted before “vote-a-rama” kicked off that the budget resolution would not repeal ObamaCare, arguing he doesn’t want Americans to be “confused.” 
“I don’t want people to be confused as the evening goes on. This is not the bill that repeals ObamaCare,” he said. “This is the bill that sets up the process that will repeal ObamaCare,” he said. 
Senators have filed nearly 170 amendments, and lawmakers could keep filing amendments throughout the night. 
For example, one amendment offered by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) would set a 60-vote threshold for any proposal that would scale back preventative healthcare coverage included in the Affordable Care Act.

Another from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) would make it harder to pass legislation that rolled back the Medicaid expansion included in ObamaCare.

Republicans are offering their own amendments, including one from a group of five GOP senators that would delay the deadline for ObamaCare repeal legislation from Jan. 27 to March 3.

Cornyn raised concerns about the proposal on Tuesday, warning that delaying an ObamaCare repeal could lead to a “jam” on the Senate floor.

Once senators are done voting they will then vote on the overall budget resolution, paving the way for lawmakers to repeal ObamaCare. The House is expected to vote on Friday. 
Tags Ben Cardin Chuck Schumer John Cornyn Mike Enzi Mitch McConnell Rand Paul
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