September 18, 2021

Senate GOP eekes out wins in legislative ‘marathon’

As the Democrats tout progress toward passing a $3.5 trillion spending plan via budget reconciliation without Republican support, GOP senators did manage to secure some key strategic victories by forcing a “vote-a-rama” marathon in which they compelled their liberal colleagues to go on the record with stances on a number of controversial issues ahead of next year’s midterm elections, as Fox News reports.

The concept of a vote-a-rama is one in which senators are permitted to introduce nonbinding amendments for as long as they wish, and it represents a required step in the process if budget reconciliation is to be used. Democrats are employing the reconciliation tactic in order to evade what would otherwise be a certain GOP filibuster of the massive spending measure.

Recognizing their ability to obtain some key campaign tools in the midst of the otherwise difficult position in which they found themselves, Republican senators forced key Democrats to formally stake out their positions on issues likely to be political hot potatoes next fall.

Key among the GOP’s wins was the success of an amendment brought forth by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) which prohibits the use of federal funds to support the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the nation’s schools, a measure that moderate Democrat Joe Manchin (WV) crossed the aisle to support.

In another savvy on-the-record accounting that could have notable midterm implications, nearly all Senate Democrats voted against an amendment raised by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) proposing a ban on abortions of fetuses diagnosed with Down syndrome, a measure in which Manchin also joined with the GOP.

Perhaps in a hint of yet-to-be produced political ads for next year’s midterms, Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) offered a harsh assessment of those who did not support the amendment, saying, “Senate Democrats just voted to allow the most lethal kind of discrimination imaginable: being singled out and brutally killed because of a Down syndrome diagnosis.”

Also adding to the Republicans’ sense that they did land some valuable blows against the Democrats’ electoral prospects in 2022 was the fact that Democrats stood in opposition to a measure limiting IRS access to certain types of financial records, access Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned could facilitate politically-motivated “witch hunts,” as CBS News noted.

Democrats’ support of the concept of banning oil and gas leases on federal lands during the vote-a-rama also bolstered GOP spirits, considering that already-rising gas prices are likely to remain a key campaign issue for voters in the run-up to the midterm elections that will decide control of Congress.

Though the voting marathon did not, of course, prevent the ultimate passage of the left’s budget resolution, which will in turn get the reconciliation process underway, Republicans can take comfort in the political points it allowed them to score and also in the fact that growing numbers of House moderates are voicing concerns about the staggering cost of the spending package that will need zero Democrat defections in order to succeed.

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