Friday, March 22, 2013

LIVE BLOG: Senate Vote-A-Rama Begins

7:29 p.m.

All the vote-a-rama roll call votes have had 99 senators voting. That's because 89-year old Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey, is absent.

7:25 p.m.

Alaska?s bipartisan pair of senators, Mark Begich, the Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, the Republican, both back an amendment requiring labeling of a genetically modified ?fake fish,? as Begich calls it. It passes with a voice vote.

7:08 p.m.

The amendment on taxing internet sales passed 75 to 24. Non-binding, of course, but interesting marker for future fights over overhauling the tax code.

7:01 p.m.

Lots of the amendments in this vote-a-rama include the phrase "deficit-neutral funds." What the heck does that mean? As Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post's Wonkblog explains: The words "deficit-neutral funds" offers "a way to discuss budget-irrelevant topics without violating budget reconciliation rules." In other words, they're a technical workaround that allows lawmakers to score? political points on a wider range of topics.

6:49 p.m.

How do Republicans sustain themselves ahead of a long evening of votes? BBQ. That?s what?s getting dished out in Sen. Mitch McConnell office during the sales tax debate: meat, baked beans, corn bread and salad.

6:30 p.m.

If you want a better sense of why overhauling the tax code may be difficult politically, just tune into the debate unfolding now on the Senate floor over a possible sales tax on internet purchases. The Senate has been fiercely debating this amendment for the past 30 minutes or so.

This amendment, put forth by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin and Republican Sen. Mike Enzi, would express support for letting states collect sales taxes on internet purchases--even if those companies were headquartered out-of-state. And, the amendment pits the business interests of typical retail stores against internet competitors. Among others, the amendment is backed by big lobbying money including the country's largest retail trade association that says it is "strongly supporting this legislative effort aimed at leveling the sales tax playing field for all retailers."

Like many fights over taxes, the split between those in favor of the amendment and those against it does not fall along typical party lines. Among the biggest critics of the bill: Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Ron Wyden and Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte

6:18 p.m.

The Senate is now in the midst of debating an amendment from Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, about states' ability to apply the sales tax to Internet purchases.?

6:03 p.m.

The Hoeven amendment supporting the Keystone XL pipeline passes 62-37, with the backing of 17, yes 17, Senate Democrats.

5:46 p.m.

?The hand-writing is on the wall. I see it,? Boxer says ahead of the next Keystone pipeline amendment vote, this one pushed by Hoeven, after she lost the first tally.

5:45 p.m.

Just how many amendments have been filed? As of 5:30, Senate Republicans have offered 371 budget amendments and Democrats have put together 154.

5:43 p.m.

Boxer?s Keystone amendment fails 33-66.

5:40 p.m.

Settling in for a long night here on the Senate side. For those just tuning into vote-a-rama, a reminder: This is Sen. Patty Murray's first time shepherding a Democratic budget to the floor. She's taken on other thankless tasks, like leading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (when few thought the party would retain the Senate in 2012) and co-leading the super committee that failed to come up with a grand deficit deal. For background reading on Murray's political ascendance, I'd recommend two deep dives: an August 2011 look at her role leading the DSCC and a March 20 profile of her leadership on the Senate Budget Committee and as a foil to Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee and former Republican vice presidential candidate. Also, of note: Majority Leader Harry Reid really trusts her.

5:29 p.m.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, speaks against an amendment from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., related to the Keystone XL pipeline. Boxer stands, arms crossed, steadily shaking her head in disagreement across the floor as Hoeven speaks.

5:20 p.m.

You know who seems to love vote-a-rama? Sen. Tom Coburn. The Oklahoma representative, who disdains wasteful government spending, has put forth over 50 amendments for this budget voting fest. If every senators did that, leadership would have to contend with 5,000 amendments. This doesn't mean that all of Coburn's amendments will make it to the floor, but it does show that Coburn is sticking with his usual playbook of digging into the budget and pointing out its myriad of flaws.

5:11 p.m.

The Whitehouse amendment falls short 41-58.?

5:04 p.m.

The vote on the Whitehouse amendment (#652) is the first of four in a row on energy and environment issues, including two related to the Keystone XL pipeline.

4:55 p.m.

Our first papal reference. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, cites Pope Francis in pushing his amendment related to a carbon tax. Whitehouse says that, ?We ignore carbon pollution at our peril? and cites God when suggesting that not taking care of the environment ?is an offense to His creation.?

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, rises in opposition and declares, ?To have to oppose the pope is really ominous.?

4:18 p.m.?

Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., issues a warning to her colleagues who choose to wander off the floor amid the coming flurry of votes. "You leave at your own peril," she says.

4:00 p.m.

More than 400 amendments to the Senate budget have been filed for Friday's marathon session on the floor. More amendments can be offered through the night, although senators won't necessarily demand votes on every measure.

Under the rules, it all comes to end only when there is no senator on the floor seeking a vote on an amendment. Senator Reid has said he hopes senators will only ask for votes on 25 to 30 of the amendments put forth.

Even so, the chamber likely will not end this "vote-a-rama" until after midnight.




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