At 5:23 am Friday morning, after a marathon of amendment voting, the US Senate passed its budget resolution teeing up Biden’s COVID relief package 51–50.
For the prior fifteen hours, the Senate voted on a series of non-binding amendments in what is called a “vote-a-rama.” Senators have the opportunity to put themselves and their colleagues on record on a whole host of issues in a largely meaningless but nonetheless fascinating PR exercise.
Here are all the non-unanimous, non-party-line recorded votes:
*Establishing a fund to provide grants to food service and drinking establishments affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (introduced by Roger Wicker of MS): Passed 90–10, with Mike Braun (R-IN), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Steve Daines (R-MT), Jim Lankford (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Rick Scott (R-FL), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) voting NO.
*Preventing undocumented immigrants from receiving COVID-related economic assistance (introduced by Todd Young of IN): Passed 58–42, with 8 Democrats voting with Republicans: Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT)
*Targeting economic impact payments to Americans who are suffering from the effects of COVID-19, including provisions to ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible (introduced by Susan Collins of ME): Passed 99–1, with the lone NO vote being Rand Paul (R-KY). Note that this is a messaging amendment, so there was no definition for “upper-income.”
*Supporting elementary and secondary schools in states with lost revenue due to the Federal moratorium on oil and natural gas leasing on public lands and offshore waters (introduced by John Barrasso of ID): Passed 98–2, with the two NO votes being Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY)
*Fear-mongering about abortion and creating solutions in search of a problem with the myth of “born alive” (introduced by Ben Sasse of NE): Passed 52–48, with Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining Republicans. Killing an infant after birth is already illegal, and Republicans like trying to conflate that with abortion in disgusting messaging amendments. Note that allegedly “pro-choice” senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) still voted for this.
*Taking away due process rights for certain immigrants (introduced by Joni Ernst of IA): Passed 52–48, with Angus King (I-ME) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joining Republicans. The amendment was a version of Ernst’s bill “Sarah’s Law,” which would require federal immigration officials to detain undocumented individuals charged with crimes resulting in death or serious bodily injury. Being charged is not the same as being convicted, and this would take away due process rights and falsely imply that immigrants are more dangerous than those born in the country.
*Strengthening the Provider Relief Fund, including a 20 percent set aside for rural hospitals (introduced by Susan Collins of ME): Passed 99–1, with the lone NO vote being Mike Lee (R-UT)
*Prohibiting the Council on Environmental Quality and the EPA from promulgating rules or guidance that bans fracking (introduced by Mike Braun of IN): Passed 57–43, with 7 Democrats joining Republicans: 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)
*Creating a point of order against eliminating the SALT deduction cap (introduced by Chuck Grassley of IA): Passed 49–51, with Rand Paul (R-KY) joining Democrats. The Republican tax bill from 2017 put a cap on the SALT (state and local tax) deduction, which allows taxpayers of high-tax states to deduct local tax payments on their federal tax returns. The SALT deduction disproportionately benefits high-income individuals; however, Democrats have been its biggest defender because (1) high-income individuals in high-tax states (like NJ and CA) have been trending blue and (2) the SALT deduction alleviates anti-tax pressure on state governments. Republicans, who usually love tax giveaways for the rich, dislike it for the exact same reasons.
*Maintaining the United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel (introduced by Jim Inhofe of OK): Passed 97–3, with the only NO votes being Tom Carper (D-DE), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
*Cutting 1% of non-infrastructure spending to redirect it toward infrastructure spending (introduced by Rand Paul of KY): Failed 29 to 71. Here are the 29 Republicans who thought it was wise to cut social services during a pandemic.
*Supporting the Keystone XL Pipeline (introduced by Steve Daines of MT): Passed 52 to 48, with two Democrats — Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jon Tester (D-MT) joining Republicans.
*Preventing the provision of Small Business Administration assistance to any individual convicted of a misdemeanor or felony for actions during or in connection with a riot or civil disorder (introduced by John Kennedy of LA): Failed 49 to 51, with Susan Collins (R-ME) joining Democrats in voting NO. First of all, starting a business is a great way for formerly incarcerated individuals to get back on their feet and engage with the community. Second of all, this was clearly just an anti-Black dog-whistle (we all know he’s not thinking about the right-wing rioters who assaulted the Capitol).
*Cutting Foreign Aid (introduced by Rand Paul of KY): Failed 8 to 92. The only 8 Republicans to vote for it were Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Mike Lee (R-UT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).
*Creating a point of order against the consideration of any legislation that increases employment-based visas until the United States’ labor market stabilizes and unemployment levels reach pre-pandemic levels (introduced by Ted Cruz of TX): Failed 40 to 60. The 10 Republicans to vote against it were Susan Collins (R-ME), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), John Thune (R-SD), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
*Undermining the Clean Water Act (introduced by Shelley Moore Capito of WV): Passed 51 to 49, with Joe Manchin (D-WV) siding with Republicans. The amendment was expressing support for Trump’s revised “Waters of the United States” rule, which would remove federal protections for 18 percent of stream and river miles and 51 percent of wetlands in the United States.
*Allowing houses of worship to host COVID super-spreader events (introduced by Jim Lankford of OK): Passed 51 to 49, with Joe Manchin (D-WV) siding with Republicans. The amendment was basically a messaging amendment opposing restrictions on houses of worship during COVID and falsely claiming they are being held to an unreasonable higher standard. A seemingly similar amendment from Mike Lee (R-UT) failed 50–50, with Manchin again voting with Republicans but Collins joining Democrats.
*Supporting the expansion of natural gas (introduced by Dan Sullivan of AK): Passed 51 to 49, with Joe Manchin (D-WV) siding with Republicans.
*Expanding Health Savings Accounts (introduced by Mike Lee of UT): Passed 53 to 47, with Mark Kelly (R-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) joining Republicans. Health savings accounts mainly just benefit the rich.
*Giving a Tax Break to Oil Refineries (introduced by Ted Cruz of TX): Failed 26 to 74. The amendment allowed oil refineries to buy renewable fuel compliance credits for 10 cents per gallon from the EPA, instead of purchasing higher-priced credits tied to actual biofuel blending. Here are the 25 Republicans and 1 Joe Manchin who supported it:
*Prohibiting the cancellation of contracts for building Trump’s wall (introduced by Ron Johnson of WI): Failed 50 to 50, with Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) switching sides.
*Bringing back Simpson-Bowles-style commissions (introduced by Mitt Romney of UT): Passed 61 to 29. The amendment was a form of Romney’s TRUST Act, which would create bipartisan committees to propose steps to ensure the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund, Medicare Part A Trust Fund, and Social Security Trust Fund that require bipartisan support for advancing. Although this isn’t promising cuts to Social Security and Medicare, it certainly feels motivated by that desire.
Here was the vote:
There were a number of party line votes as well:
- Reducing COVID-19 funding to states that may have under-reported deaths at nursing homes — An amendment from Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Jim Lankford (R-OK) aimed at New York in particular
- Prohibiting the provision of COVID-19 related K-12 emergency relief to schools that do not reopen for in-person learning after the teachers of such schools are vaccinated against COVID-19 — An amendment from Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Tim Scott (R-SC)
- Pressuring states and municipalities into ensuring that state and local law enforcement act as immigration agents on ICE’s behalf — from Pat Toomey (R-PA)
- Affirming support for the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which allows US border officers to return non-Mexican asylum seekers to dangerous locations in Mexico as their claims are adjudicated in US immigration courts — from Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
- Creating a point of order against increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court — introduced by Tom Cotton (R-AR)
- Creating a point of order against providing Economic Impact Payments to prisoners — from Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
- Opposing the Biden administration’s decision to limit oil and gas leasing on federal lands — from Mike Lee (R-UT)
- Making the 2017 GOP tax giveaways permanent — from Mike Crapo (R-ID)
- Prohibiting a federal carbon tax — from John Hoeven (R-ND)
- Ending protections for children, families, and asylum speakers who come across the US border — from Marco Rubio (R-FL)