posted on March 22, 2013 15:58
Senators from both parties promise a slew of amendments Mar. 22 as the chamber debates its first budget in nearly four years.
The series of votes, set to spill into the early morning of Mar. 22, has the potential to act as a release valve, easing up pent-up partisan pressure in the chamber.
Among the expected offerings are amendments to strip out unpopular elements of the Obama healthcare law, including the medical device tax; several energy-related measures, including one related to the Keystone XL pipeline; and core tax-and-spending messaging votes.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has an amendment to put billions toward structurally deficient bridges, offset with cuts to foreign aid and the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program.
Former Senate Environment and Public Works committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) has a pair of amendments. One would set up a reserve fund for future legislation to alter DOT's CSA truck safety program. The other would create a point of order against any bill that increases user fees on general aviation - something that has been proposed many times over the years but has not yet gained serious traction.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has filed an amendment mandating that any measure pricing carbon would need 60 votes to pass the chamber, The Hill reports. The move is largely symbolic, but a sign that fossil fuel companies feel threatened by the possibility of a carbon tax even during a session of Congress in which such a measure is not considered politically feasible.
Senators had filed more than 130 budget amendments as of March 21, with many more expected. Senators can continue to offer new amendments until the voting is over. The only limit on debate is senators' own willingness to remain in session late into the night to force the nonbinding amendment votes.
Only a few amendments can be voted on each hour, with the start of ‘votearama’ delayed until possibly as late as 7:00 p.m. on March 22. Ultimately, the blizzard of votes is more about making political points than policy.