Sen. Patty Murray's paid sick leave amendment netted a surprising 61 votes.
Thursday was vote-a-palooza in the Senate, a guaranteed Congressional all-nighter—whee! It's a budget tradition that's mostly a waste of time for taxpayers even as it can have great import for politicians. While the votes on a successive series of 100-some amendments changed no laws, they do often serve up key fodder for the next election
, with senators of both stripes attempting to back their opponents into corners on hot-button issues like taxes and health care.
Some of the roll calls are bound to show up in campaign ads and talking points and floor speeches: Just ask Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who was attacked by her GOP opponent, Scott Brown, two weeks before her 2014 reelection for voting to “pave the way” for a carbon tax, a vote that was more than 18 months old at the time.
“So many attacks are not based in the substance of what we do here,” Shaheen sighed when reminded of Brown’s broadside.
Indeed, no other day of Congress elicits as many campaign advertisements as the vote-a-rama. Republicans are defending 24 seats in 2016, and the most vulnerable senators are already bracing for Democrats to find avenues of attack for the campaign trail.
The rapid-fire votes are part and parcel of the budget debate precisely because actually passing the budget is not binding. But while it was largely a show of theatrics, this year some progressive issues drew unexpected support from Republicans, who could not deny the popularity of the issues even if they ran counter to party orthodoxy.
Here's a glimpse of the votes:
•They rejected an amendment from Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to boost the minimum wage by a "substantial" amount, 48-52.
•An amendment offered by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington that would let workers earn seven days of paid sick leave garnered a whopping 61 votes, enough to be filibuster proof. Fourteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the measure.
Several GOP senators expected to have competitive reelection bids in 2016 — including Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Rob Portman of Ohio — voted with Democrats.
And later in the afternoon, two more in-cycle Republicans — Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — switched their votes to “yes” on the paid sick leave amendment, which could have been turned into an easy attack ad against vulnerable GOP-ers.
•A strong majority of senators also backed a measure
that would give married same-sex couples equal access to Social Security and veterans benefits, 57-43.
[A]lmost a dozen Republicans threw their support behind an amendment to ensure gay married couples get equal access to Social Security and veterans benefits. Several of them — Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine, Rob Portman of Ohio and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have gone on record supporting gay marriage before.
Head below the fold for more on the spectacle.
At the outset, some senators were excited about getting their vote on, even as the thought of it made others quite testy.
“I hate it more than — dislike it more than — any other day in the Senate because we’re going to be up until 2 a.m.,” grumbled Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Voting starting around 12:00 p.m. Eastern and, three hours later, the extravaganza was already testing people's nerves. Every second counts since everyone is jockeying to get their votes in and everybody also wants to finish as soon as humanly possible.
At around 3:30 p.m., Sen. Sanders tried to get a word in edgewise.
Things getting a testy on the floor, and it's only 3:30pm. Sanders wanted 20 seconds more to speak. Rs said 'no.'
Nearing 5:00 p.m., California Sen. Barbara Boxer wondered why they were running 11 minutes over on her vote.
Wheels coming off Senate rt now. Boxer: How many mins do I have left?? Chair: Up to suffrance of chair. Boxer: Suffrance? WE ARE SUFFERING
"Let's bang that gavel!" said Boxer, who was taking her last turn with vote-a-rama. Just guessing she's not going to miss it.