Senate Democrats on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning repeatedly voted to pass Republican bills penalizing localities that defund the police, preventing the implementation of the Green New Deal and more – but the legislation was all non-binding, allowing Democrats to dodge messaging bullets without real policy consequences.
At the start of the marathon amendment process, or “vote-o-rama,” on Democrats’ budget resolution, all 50 Democrats joined with Republicans to pass Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) amendment preventing the implementation of the Green New Deal.
All 99 senators present – minus Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) – voted to pass Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) amendment to withhold federal funds from localities that defund their police – which, like the Green New Deal, is a left-wing policy the GOP likes to try to pin to Democrats.
98 senators voted for Sen. Todd Young’s (R-Ind.) amendment to block tax increases that would violate President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge not to raise taxes on Americans making under $400,000 a year, which only Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) voted against.
95 senators voted for Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) amendment to hire 100,000 new police officers, which, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted, is an extension of a program Biden got passed in 1994 when he was a senator.
Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) broke with his party to pass Sen. James Lankford’s (R-Neb.) amendment preserving the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion, and Sen. Tom Cotton’s (R-Ark.) amendment to defund Critical Race Theory, a centerpiece of the GOP’s latest culture war messaging.
The vote-o-rama presented an opportunity for Senate Democrats to argue the attacks they’ve faced from Republicans in recent months are beyond the reality of what they support – while simultaneously avoiding enacting any policies.
Though the amendments are non-binding, given that a budget resolution is only a blueprint for the actual budget bill, vote-o-ramas are often used to craft campaign ads, such as a 2014 ad accusing Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) of wanting to implement a carbon tax. “We’re going to take each of these votes by the Democrats tonight and we’re going to make sure the citizens in those states know exactly how their senators are voting,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chair of the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said of a vote-o-rama in February.
“This is a gift,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said of Tuberville’s amendment in a floor speech, asserting that it will allow Democrats to “put to bed this scurrilous accusation that somebody in this great, esteemed body would want to defund the police.” He added, sarcastically, “I am sure I will see no political ads attacking anybody here over defund the police.”
14. That’s how many hours the Senate spent on these messaging amendments before voting 50-49 along party lines to pass the budget amendment. That sets the stage for Democrats to begin crafting what is expected to be a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package aimed at expanding Medicare, enacting immigration reform and implementing free community college – though some of those provisions could be stripped out by the Senate parliamentarian.
“While you were all sleeping, radical Democrats advanced a plan that will be known as the $3.5 trillion Communist Plan to Destroy America,” former President Donald Trump said in a statement on Wednesday, adding “don’t forget the crazy Green New Deal” despite Democrats all voting for Barrasso’s amendment.
What To Watch For
After voting with his fellow Democrats to pass the resolution, Manchin fired a warning shot about the size of the social spending package, urging Democrats to “seriously consider” the risk of spending at “irresponsible levels.” House progressives, on the other hand, have warned they could try to sink the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill if the reconciliation package isn’t “robust” enough.