Late Saturday, Vice President Kamala Harris raced to the Senate to cast a tie-breaking procedural vote that would allow for the process of voting for the Inflation Reduction Act to begin. Although the bill has received support from moderates in the Democratic Party, particularly Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the bill itself is not up for a vote as of Sunday morning.
In fact, the Senate has been in what has been dubbed as a “vote-a-rama” since about 11 PM Eastern time Saturday night.
In political terms, the vote-a-rama, which is sometimes referred to as a vote-athon, is an “unofficial” name for the ability of Senators to propose an unlimited number of amendments to a proposed piece of legislation.
Senators will then take a vote on each amendment after a period of brief debate. How long is the time period for debate? That depends. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) was given a mere two seconds to present his argument for an amendment he wished to introduce.
Senator Scott appeared to have misunderstood the time limit, asking the chair, “Twenty-two seconds?” The chair repeated the time limit. It is said that Senator Scott was given a bit more than the two allotted seconds, but that he was eventually “gaveled out” during his presentation.
Republicans had already begun to prepare for the vote-a-rama by preparing a multitude of amendments on energy, the IRS, and the border.
Senator James Lankford (R-OK) put forth an amendment to codify (make into law) Title 42, which would keep people from entering the country should they pose a health risk. The amendment was voted down.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is putting forth an amendment to increase onshore energy production in the United States. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is putting forth an amendment that would remove the tax proposed in the Manchin-Schumer spending bill that would require a new tax on imported and domestic oil.
Many had hoped that the vote-a-rama, particularly on these aforementioned amendments, would not only put more moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin on the record voting, but might also help to “bring down” the massive legislation. Senator Manchin reportedly said that he would vote against any “fake Republican amendments” that were brought during the vote-athon.
Manchin’s fellow senator from West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, put forth an amendment that would strike down approximately $45 million from the Inflation Reduction legislation that would regulate amendments. Capito’s amendment comes after the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA could not put certain regulations on climate policy without Congressional consent.
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) offered an amendment that would “prevent the IES from targeting Americans and small businesses who make under $400,000 annually for audits.”
A vote-a-rama can last the better part of 24 hours.
One of the most unlikely characters to put forth multiple amendments is progressive Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Senator Sanders has put forth three amendments that were previously voted down. Sanders’ fourth amendment would bring back the child tax credit put forth in the American Rescue plan, and it would be paid for by taxing corporations.
Sanders’ fourth amendment proposal was summarily put down as well, but not before one Democratic senator, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was heard on a hot mic saying, “Come on, Bernie!” Senator Michael Bennett (D-CO) echoed the sentiment, saying, “We could lose the underlying bill.”
Bernie Sanders didn’t hesitate to reply, “If I could ask my friend from Ohio – why would passage of this amendment . . .bring the overall bill down?” Brown replied to Sanders, “We know that this is a fragile arrangement and we’ve got to pass it.”
However, Sunday morning, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) put forth an amendment that would ban the U.S. from selling oil to China. Three Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year voted to pass that amendment – Senators Catherine Cortez Maso (NV), Maggie Hassan (NH) and Raphael Warnock (GA). The amendment did not garner the sixty votes needed to be attached to the Inflation Reduction Act.
The vote-a-rama is continuing as of this writing.