Before Final Passage, Dozens Of Amendments in Vote-A-Rama

Shortly before 2 a.m., having voted on 62 amendments, and about three hours before concluding business, Senate budget charwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., noted to chuckles they’d voted on amendments on just about every topic, “including the budget.”

This was what’s known here as vote-a-rama, where before passing the Senate version of the budget, senators went through dozens of amendments. Most were ideological and political, designed to get members of the other part to take bad votes — like measures to ensure the United States government funds its military at higher levels than the militaries of foreign holders of its debt or to prohibit raising taxes while the unemployment rate is above 5.5 percent. Others, like expressing support for the Keystone Pipeline, were more substantive.

To top it off, the amendments the senators were up until 5 a.m. voting on  are non-binding.

Hawaii’s Democratic senators Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono voted together along party lines. One exception was a measure to support Congress creating a budget every two years instead of every year. Schatz voted with the majority, while Hirono voted against it.

Among other votes:

— In a voice vote, the Senate passed an amendment co-sponsored by Hirono to oppose using the so-called chained CPI to measure increases in veterans benefits. The chained CPI would provide for smaller annual cost-of-living increases than the CPI. The amendment sends a signal to President Barrack Obama who is open to using the chained CPI to reduce spending. Veterans groups strongly oppose the chained CPI method;

— Schatz highlighted one vote in particular. Both he and Schatz voted with the majority to ensure that employers cannot deny coverage of basic services, such as access to contraception through private insurance plans, and other important family-planning services. 

“We must do everything we can to protect every woman’s access to affordable health care, and this amendment does just that,” Schatz said in a statement.  “President Obama’s Affordable Care Act provides key provisions that are critical to family planning, such as contraception and preventive services like cancer screenings. 

— both voted against measure, passed by the Senate, to endorse the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas;

— both voted with the majority to defeat a measure to prohibit considerig revenue increases while the civilian unemployment rate is above 5.5 percent;

— both voted with the majority to reject the measure ensure the United States government funds its military at higher levels than the militaries of foreign holders of its debt.

— both voted with the majority to defeat a measure to do away with Obamacare;

— both voted with the majority to pass a measure to end subsidies and advantages for “Too Big to Fail” mega-banks. 

— Both voted against a measure that also failed that would have created new penalties for abortions performed on minors outside of their home states.

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— Kery Murakami

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