Most Members of Congress – especially Democratic Members – did not sleep last night. That’s because a fun little Senate procedure allowed unlimited time to register official complaints about Obamacare, as long as no one took any breaks.
“I’m prepared to be up all night if necessary,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on Wednesday afternoon.
The Senate procedure, conventionally known as vote-o-rama, occurs after 20 hours of standard debate time which is prescribed under reconciliation procedures. Half of that those 20 hours goes to Republicans, and half goes to Democrats.
Given that reconciliation is being invoked on a Democratic bill – health care – Democrats had no amendments to propose. So they forfeited their right to their initial 10 hours, and were not expected to offer.
Republicans took advantage of their 10 hours of standard time, was exhausted during the day on Tuesday. And they took advantage leaving and the switch was made into vote-o-rama after the close of business.
Vote-o-rama allows unlimited time for rapid-fire voting on special amendments. Traditional Senate amendments require official recognition, acknowledgement, and approval to proceed, but vote-o-rama amendments are simply offered up like hotcakes as soon as the strike the fancy of a given Senator.
The amendments being offered up by Republicans were far from nonchalant, however. They were carefully planned political maneuvers designed to make Democratic Senators take some of the hardest votes of their life.
“What we intend to talk about are the things upon which there is not broad agreement: the massive Medicare cuts, the massive tax increases, made even more dramatic in this bill that they want to try to pass here in the Senate this week,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, during a press conference on Monday.
Given that reconciliation only requires a simple majority, only 51 or the 59 Democratic Senators will be needed to defeat these amendments at a time. But that means the Congressional Record now reflects the votes of at least 51 Democratic Senators taking a stand for higher taxes, sweetheart deals, and scamming seniors out of their Medicare checks.
That’s not particularly friendly campaign fodder for the November mid-term elections. And that’s precisely the intention of GOP Senate leadership.
“Our amendments strike at the very core of all the promises they have made and that have been broken,” said Thune.