Senate starts hours-long slog on $3.5T Democratic budget plan

The Senate has kicked off an hours-long slog as Democrats try to pass a budget resolution that is a first step toward their $3.5 trillion spending plan. 

Senators are at the start of what is expected to be an hours-long vote-a-rama, where any lawmaker can force a vote on anything they want.  

Hundreds of potential amendments have already been filed. Republicans are expected to force dozens of messaging votes that let them highlight key areas of opposition to the massive spending plan, which Democrats are expected to try to pass without GOP votes later this year. 

“We’re going to argue it out right here on the floor at some length. Every single senator will be going on record over and over and over. Senate Republicans will be bringing forward commonsense amendments that represent what Americans actually want and actually need,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). 

The first amendment from Republicans was a nonbinding measure supportive of prohibiting legislation implementing the Green New Deal, referring to a climate change plan touted by progressives that isn’t a specific bill; legislation that ships U.S. jobs overseas; and legislation that imposes “soaring” electricity and other costs or makes the U.S dependent on foreign supply chains.  

Every Democrat voted for the amendment, which, because it is nonbinding, is symbolic. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), speaking before the vote, said GOP Sen. John Barrasso’s (Wyo.) amendment “has nothing to do with the Green New Deal.” 

“As a supporter of the Green New Deal, I have no problem voting for this amendment because it has nothing to do with the Green New Deal,” Sanders said. 

Democrats and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) then supported a nonbinding amendment from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) on fighting climate change by creating jobs, reducing pollution and strengthening the economy. Neither the Carper nor the Barrasso amendment has any practical effect on the spending package that Democrats want to pass later this year. 

Republicans are also expected to force votes on amendments related to in-person learning, opposing a fracking ban, opposing defunding the police, undocumented immigration and renewing a push led by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to get $50 billion for defense infrastructure. 

Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who slow-walked the bipartisan infrastructure bill, predicted a lengthy session, saying that it would be “a while.” 

Asked about the number of amendments that Democrats will offer, Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said, “I hope very few.”  

The Senate has already held two vote-a-ramas this year: one on a budget resolution that teed up a Democratic coronavirus relief bill and then one on the coronavirus relief bill itself. The Senate held 41 votes and 37 roll-call votes during those marathon sessions, respectively.  

Durbin added that “there’s a point at which people say, ‘OK, enough.'”  

“I don’t know when that point will be,” Durbin said. “It’s usually somewhere in the range of 12 hours and four amendments.” 

Tags Bernie Sanders budget plan Dick Durbin Infrastructure Mitch McConnell Reconciliation Richard Shelby Senate Susan Collins Tom Carper

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