Live coverage: The Senate's 2018 budget 'vote-a-rama'

Live coverage: The Senate's 2018 budget 'vote-a-rama'
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The Hill is provided live coverage of the Senate's Thursday voting marathon.

 

Senate narrowly passes 2018 budget, paving way for tax reform

9:34 p.m.

Senate Republicans took the first step Thursday evening toward passing a tax plan and fulfilling a long-held campaign pledge.

Senators narrowly voted 51-49 to pass the fiscal year 2018 budget after a grueling hours-long marathon on the Senate floor. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined with every Democrat and independent to vote against the bill.

The spending blueprint is key to Republicans' efforts to pass tax reform because it includes instructions that will allow the plan to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

 

Senate rejects effort to block drilling in Alaska refuge 

9:04 p.m. 

The Senate defeated a Democratic attempt to block oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

A group of Democrats, led by Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Senate Democrats unveil priorities for federal privacy bill Microsoft embraces California law, shaking up privacy debate MORE (D-Wash.), offered an amendment to the Senate’s budget resolution looking to prevent potential drilling in the Alaska refuge as a way to raise revenue for the federal government.

But Republicans said they wouldn’t take the possibility of drilling off the table as the GOP looks to raise revenue and boost the American energy sector.

“Those who would support this amendment will deny us the opportunity to do something constructive in this country, when it comes to our opportunities to produce energy, to produce wealth,” Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKey Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Impeachment hearings don't move needle with Senate GOP Hillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day MORE (R-Alaska) said.

The amendment failed 52-48, with Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPolitical purity tests are for losers Former coal exec Don Blankenship launches third-party presidential bid Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (W.Va.) voting against it and Republican Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret Collins2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds MORE (Maine) voting in favor.

Dems munch on pizza around vote-a-rama

8:41 p.m.

Senate Democrats snacked on We the Pizza and salad on the sidelines of an hours-long Senate session on Thursday night.

"Another in the series Glamorous Life of a U.S. Senator. All day and into the night votes on amendments to the budget resolution, so here’s the pizza to carry us through," Maine Sen. Angus KingAngus KingOvernight Energy: EPA watchdog slams agency chief after deputy fails to cooperate in probe | Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act | Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows Bipartisan Senate climate caucus grows by six members Senators fear Syria damage 'irreversible' after Esper, Milley briefing MORE, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, shared in on Instagram.

 

Appeasing the House?

8:18 p.m.

Senate Budget Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziEleven GOP senators sign open letter backing Sessions's comeback bid Senate committee advances budget reform plan Bipartisan Enzi-Whitehouse budget bill a very bad fix for deficits MORE (R-Wyo.) has introduced an amendment that would align the Senate budget resolution more closely with the House's already-passed budget.

The amendment, should it pass, is intended to tempt the House to simply adopt the Senate budget, and forego a conference committee to work out the differences in the two documents.

That could give tax reform a shot in the arm, hitting two birds with one stone.

The question remains if the amendment will pass, and whether that will be good enough for the House to forego a conference and simply take up the Senate budget.

 

Senate rejects adding ObamaCare repeal instructions into budget
 
7:49 p.m. 
 
The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul Democratic debate at Tyler Perry's could miss the mark with black voters RNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' GOP divided over impeachment trial strategy MORE (R-Ky.) that would have paved the way for the Senate's budget to include instructions allowing Republicans to repeal ObamaCare by a simple majority. 
Only 33 senators supported Paul's amendment, which would have included instructions for the Senate Health Committee. 
 
But GOP leadership signaled earlier this year that they were putting ObamaCare repeal on the back burner over the concern that tying it into the fiscal 2018 budget would make it harder to pass tax reform. 
 

 

Senators get deal to wrap up vote-a-rama

7:39 p.m. 

Senators have reached a deal that could let them wrap up the vote-a-rama hours earlier than normal.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) locked in an agreement to vote on eight additional amendments, take a final procedural vote on the budget and then take a final passage vote. If every vote sticks to 10 minutes that would set up the Senate to wrap up around 9 p.m. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled MORE (R-Ky.) said the agreement "allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel."

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"We hope that both sides will stay in their seats so we can finish quickly without going through the ridiculous vote-a-rama we have done in previous years," Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer2020 Republicans accuse Schumer of snubbing legislation Schumer: Leadership trying to work out competing surprise medical bill measures Top GOP senator: Drug pricing action unlikely before end of year MORE (D-N.Y.) added.

Strike two for Paul on deficit

6:33 p.m.

A second deficit-reduction amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) fell short in a 95-5 vote.

The amendment would cut $43 billion in discretionary spending in 2018. That amount is equivalent to the estimated amount of outlays, or payments, that the budget is expected to add to the deficit in 2018.

That figure differs from the $77 billion in overall noncap spending the budget would approve, which could be paid out over multiple years.

Paul, the only Republican "no" vote expected for the budget, said earlier this week that he would vote "yes" if the $43 billion in spending were removed from the plan.

28-hour waiting period for CBO score scrapped

6:03 p.m.

Say goodbye to the 28-hour waiting period between a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score and a vote.

The budget resolution scraps a recently instated rule that required the waiting period for most types of legislation.

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Senators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (D-Va.) proved unsuccessful in passing an amendment to keep the rule in place. His amendment failed with a party-line vote of 51-48, with the only Republican to vote for it being Sen. Susan Collins (Maine).

CBO scores will still be required for Senate legislation, as was the case before the 2016-era rule was introduced, but they will not be needed 28 hours in advance.

Cochran arrives on Senate floor

5:40 p.m. 

Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranMike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe MORE (R-Miss.) arrived on the Senate floor during the sixth amendment vote of the evening.

Cochran, who returned to Washington this week after an extended medical leave, voted against an amendment from Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinOvernight Health Care: Democratic gains mark setback for Trump on Medicaid work requirements | Senate Dems give Warren 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder | Judge strikes Trump rule on health care 'conscience' rights Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Former NAACP president to run for Cummings's House seat MORE (D-Md.) on deficits before sitting down at his desk on the Senate floor.

Cochran misses first tranche of amendment votes

5:30 p.m.

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) missed the first group of votes in the Senate's hours-long vote-a-rama.

The 79-year-old senator returned to Washington this week after recovering in Mississippi for weeks from recurring urinary tract infections.  

Cochran's office noted when they announced his return that he remained under medical supervision, which could affect his work schedule.

Cochran's health issues have sparked a new round of speculation that he will retire, a rumor he shot down on Thursday.

"It's up for the people to decide," Cochran, who was reelected in 2014, told CNN. "I think I am" well enough for the job.

Asked about the missed votes, a spokesman for Cochran said the GOP senator will take part in the vote-a-rama.

Senate overwhelmingly rejects Paul’s deficit amendment

5:13 p.m.

Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) is the only GOP senator expected to vote “no” on the budget resolution, saying that he opposes its deficit-busting provisions.

In that vein, he introduced an amendment that would cut mandatory spending by nearly $100 billion in 2018 alone. To put that in perspective, the House worked for months to negotiate a package that would reduce mandatory spending by $203 billion over an entire decade.

The current Senate budget only has $1 billion set aside for mandatory cuts from the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and that’s intended to pave the way for fast-tracking arctic drilling.

Paul’s fellow senators overwhelmingly rejected the amendment in a 94-4 vote.

Donnelly doing damage control?

4:40 p.m.

Is Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyWatchdog accuses pro-Kavanaugh group of sending illegal robotexts in 2018 Lobbying world Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Ind.) doing damage control with his budget amendment?

In July, The Associated Press reported that Donnelly held stock in his brother’s company, which was using a Mexican company to produce dye ink. Donnelly, a vocal opponent of outsourcing, sold his stock in the company.

Donnelly’s amendment would have blocked any company that outsources jobs abroad from getting tax breaks, a provision that would have had far-reaching implications for the global economy.

But at the last minute, he swapped it out with an innocuous amendment that would leave the door open to future legislation on the issue. It passed by a voice vote.

Democratic amendments twist the knife on Republicans

4:11 p.m.

Democrats are focusing their amendments on political weak points in the budget resolution and forcing Republicans to go on the record in order to vote them down.

Already, Republicans have had to vote against an amendment that would prevent taxes from increasing on couples making under $250,000 from Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report — Biden steadies in third debate as top tier remains the same Trump wins 60 percent approval in rural areas of key states Pence to push new NAFTA deal in visit to Iowa MORE (D-N.D.), and one that would prevent increases to the deficit from Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinIt's time for Congress to establish a national mental health crisis number The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems unveil impeachment measure; Vindman splits GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Dems shift strategy on impeachment vote MORE (D-Wis.).

Their main amendment topics are aimed at taxes, deficits and entitlement programs.

Republicans have to defeat these uncomfortable amendments to keep the path clear for their tax-reform efforts. 

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Reporters: Budget votes largely messaging war between lawmakers

3:51 p.m.

Some reporters marked the start of vote-a-rama by noting that hours-long votes are largely messaging fights between the two parties.

The budget doesn't get signed into law and many of the amendments use "reserve funds" — basically a placeholder for future legislation.

Senate kicks off vote-a-rama
 
3 p.m.
 
The Senate is formally kicking off its marathon voting session — known as a vote-a-rama. 
 
The hours-long floor drama will cap off with Republicans passing their fiscal 2018 budget either Thursday night or early Friday morning. 
The budget is key to the GOP tax-reform effort because it includes instructions allowing the plan to avoid a Democratic filibuster. 
 
Vote-a-ramas frequently last into the early morning hours, though senators have voiced optimism that Thursday's marathon session could wrap up early.
 
Democrats have said they want to keep their amendments focused on the GOP tax plan instead of a free-for-all. 
 
As of 3 p.m. more than 400 amendments have been filed.