The Senate Budget Resolution Was Good. These Republican Messaging Amendments Were Not.

Jonathan Cohn
8 min readAug 12, 2021


After an 11:52 am 50–49 party line vote on a motion to proceed Tuesday morning to consideration of a budget resolution that could lead to a much-needed expansion of the social safety net, the Senate kicked off what is called a “vote-a-rama,” a marathon of amendment voting in which senators try to put each other on record on contentious issues, until almost 4 am the next morning. These amendments are all non-binding and mainly just serve for messaging purposes.

But it still matters what messages politicians choose to advance. So let’s take a look at them.

Several votes were unanimous, including the amendments to…

  • To prohibit enactment of “the Green New Deal,” which is not a thing that exists in a form that could be enacted because it is a concept (filed by Sen. John Barrasso of WY) — — Tom Carper’s counter-messaging amendment on the importance of urgently addressing climate change passed 51–48, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joining Democrats.
  • To protect owners of generationally-owned businesses, farms, and ranches so that they may continue to transfer ownership or operations to family members or others based upon the same tax principles that existed when they began operations and under which they currently operate, including the full benefit of the step-up in basis (filed by Sen. John Thune Thune of ND). This amendment focuses on a narrow case that Republicans use to vilify estate taxes.
  • To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to decreasing Federal funding for local jurisdictions that defund the police (filed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville of AL) — Again, a right-wing messaging amendment targeted at left-wing organizers. Democrats can vote for it knowing it has no actual meaning (What municipality has done this? “Defund” as a term isn’t even defined as it would have to be for real law), but not a single one of them will have immunized them from disingenuous Republican attacks during campaign season.
  • To establish a reserve fund relating to honoring the United States Capitol Police, the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police, and all other first responders, who fought and died protecting Congress and the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021 (filed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of MN)
  • To establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to preventing terrorist actions against the United States and its allies, and to ensure that United States tax dollars do not benefit terrorist organizations such as Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (filed by Sen. Rick Scott of FL)

Many amendments failed on a party line vote (with 49 Republicans in favor, and 50 Democrats opposed):

  • Cancelling the Biden Administration’s ban on oil and gas leasing on Federal land (filed by Sen. Cynthia Lummis of WY)
  • Preventing a proposal from the Biden administration to strengthen IRS oversight of financial activity (filed by Sen. Mike Crapo of ID) — A counter-messaging amendment from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) passed on a party line vote.
  • Vilifying teachers’ unions (awkwardly called “teacher labor organizations”) for protecting their members and students and calling for the full 2021–2022 year to be in person regardless of what happens with the pandemic (filed by Sen. Tim Scott of SC)
  • Preventing reconciliation legislation from “including trillions of dollars in job-killing tax hikes” (filed by Sen. Mitt Romney of UT)
  • Creating a point of order against legislation that would cause a net increase in outlays unless the Director of the Congressional Budget Office certifies that inflation is below 3 percent (filed by Sen. Mike Lee of UT)
  • Restricting funding to international organizations, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, until the Department of State certifies that no members of the organization are state sponsors of terrorism (filed by Sen. Dan Sullivan of AK)
  • Preventing undocumented workers with even minor criminal records from ever being able to attain lawful permanent resident status (filed by Sen. Chuck Grassley of IA)
  • Blaming immigrants for the spread of COVID-19, which the same Republicans don’t even seem to believe is real or serious (filed by Sen. ted Cruz of TX)
  • Preventing the Senate from expediting investments due to the COVID-19 emergency (filed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn of TN)

Unfortunately, a number of Republican messaging amendments passed:

Anti-environment messaging amendments

  • 57–42: Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)’s amendment to prohibit the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating rules or guidance that bans hydraulic fracturing (“fracking’) in the US, with Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Ben Lujan (D-NM), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Jon Tester (D-MT) joining Republicans.
  • 53–46: Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)’s amendment to prohibit the Department of Agriculture from making fossil fuel-burning plants ineligible for financing, with Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jon Tester (D-MT) joining Republicans in support.
  • 51–48: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)’s amendment to means-test electric vehicle tax credits, with Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voting in favor and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) — strangely — voting against.
  • 66 to 33: Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA)’s amendment to prohibit or limit the issuance of Clean Air Act permit requirements on farmers and ranchers or the imposition of new federal methane requirements on livestock. 17 Democrats voted for it: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Lujan (D-NM), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Raphael Warnock (D-GA).
  • 90–9: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK)’s amendment to prohibit renewable energy projects receiving Federal funds and subsidies from purchasing materials, technology, and critical minerals produced in China, an amendment whose main purpose is just to block renewable energy financing in support of the fossil fuel industry (I get the impression that it is trying to make it sound like the fossil fuel industry is “domestic” by contrast, which is risible.) The 9 NO votes were Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) as well as Republican Pat Toomey (R-PA).
  • 50 to 49: Ted Cruz’s amendment to create a point of order against legislation that would provide funding or subsidize the import from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China of items relating to electric cars, an anti-environmental amendment disguised as a pro-human rights amendment (from someone who cares about neither). Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans.
  • 52–47: Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)’s amendment to expand the use of baseload power from coal and natural gas to prevent future blackouts and brownouts, with Senators Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joining Republicans in support.

Anti-tax messaging amendments

  • 86–13: Sen. Mike Braun’s amendment to remove the prohibition on states’ use of stimulus funds to lower state and local taxes, with the only NO votes coming from Senators Mike Bennet (D-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-WA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • 98–1: Sen. Todd Young (R-IN)’s amendment to prevent tax increases that would violate President Biden’s repeated promise to not impose a single penny in tax increases on people making less than $400,000 per year, with Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) voting no.

Anti-immigrant messaging amendments

  • 53–46: Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN)’s amendment to increase funding for ICE detentions and deportations, with Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joining Republicans in support.
  • 88–11: Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS)’s amendment to bar undocumented immigrants from entering the US if they have not received a negative COVID-19 test, an attempt to blame immigrants — rather than (more accurately) anti-vaccine conservatives — for the spread of COVID. Only 11 voted NO: Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Lujan (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
  • 76–23: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS)’s amendment calling for stronger immigration enforcement at the southern border, with opposition from Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ben Lujan (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Other bad messages

  • 95–3: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO)’s amendment to hire 100,000 new police officers nationwide to combat the “crime wave” in the United States, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) voting no. Again, none of the Democrats voting for this amendment will immunize them from bad-faith Republican attacks, nor would hiring 100,000 new police officers help address a non-existent crime wave rather than exacerbating existing tensions and flaws resulting from overpolicing of marginalized communities.
  • 50–49: Sen. Tom Cotton’s amendment on banning the teaching of critical race theory in schools, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining Republicans in support.
  • 50–49: Sen. Jim Lankford (R-OK)’s amendment to keep the Hyde Amendment in place, which blocks federal funding for abortion. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans.

Some Republican messaging amendments, however, did not pass:

  • 49–50: Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)’s amendment to prohibit abortions of unborn children with Down syndrome or other chromosomal conditions — a new tactic from anti-choice activists to weaken support for reproductive rights and falsely portray isolated cases as widespread phenomena, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining Republicans and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) joining Democrats.
  • 48–51: Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA)’s amendment to impose penalties on doctors providing abortions after 20 weeks, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) voting against it with Democrats.
  • 47–52: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)’s amendment to withhold federal funds from cities with prosecutors who have non-prosecution policies for certain minor crimes, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) joining Democrats in voting against it.
  • 46–53: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)’s amendment to add $50 billion to the Pentagon budget, with Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Rand Paul (R-KY) joining Democrats in voting against it.
  • 48–51: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)’s amendment to prevent the restoration of the State and local tax (SALT) deduction, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) joining Democrats in opposition.

Unfortunately, two Democratic counter-messaging amendments on fair taxation also failed to pass, due to the decision of some Democrats to want to message to their donors:

  • 49–50: Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)’s estate tax amendment “to establish a reserve fund relating to protecting family farms, ranches, and small businesses while ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share,” with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voting with Republicans.
  • 47–51: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)’s amendment to increase the progressivity of the tax code so that the wealthy pay proportionally more, with Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) voting against.



Jonathan Cohn

Editor. Bibliophile. Gadfly. Environmentalist. Super-volunteer for progressive campaigns. Boston by way of Baltimore, London, NYC, DC, and Philly.