US Senate Shows Off Hawkish, Pro-Corporate, Anti-Climate, Anti-Union Sides During Vote-a-Rama

Jonathan Cohn
5 min readMay 9, 2022

On Wednesday (5/4), the US Senate began formal debate on a bill to pay for $52 billion in semiconductor chips manufacturing subsidies and boost US economic competitiveness with China.

The debate became an opportunity for senators to file a series of non-binding motions to instruct the bill’s negotiators to take action on various issues. Although non-binding, the votes were revealing about how senators want to position themselves and each other.

Anti-Climate Policy

Oil & Gas Leases: The Senate voted 53 to 44 for a motion from John Barrasso (R-WY) to instruct requiring a minimum number of oil and gas leases through 2027. Four Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Green Climate Fund: The Senate narrowly defeated (49 to 48) a motion from Mike Lee (R-UT) to instruct Senate negotiators to deny implementation of Green Climate Fund initiatives, which support the efforts of developing countries in responding to the challenge of climate change. Susan Collins (R-ME) voted against it with Democrats, and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted for it with Republicans.

The Senate voted 50 to 44 to pass a motion from Tom Cotton (R-AR) negotiators to instruct negotiators to remove $8B for the Green Climate Fund from the bill and reallocate it to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for weapons systems. Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans in voting for it.

Climate Emergency: The Senate also voted 49 to 47 in support of a motion from Shelley Moore Capito to instruct the negotiators to clarify that Biden cannot use climate change as the basis to declare a national emergency. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans in voting for it.

Fake Concern about China’s Emissions: The Senate voted 49 to 47 to reject Tim Scott (R-SC)’s motion to instruct negotiators that any new greenhouse gas emission mandates in the US must also be enacted by China. The US, of course, does not control China’s climate policy, and Republicans are hell-bent on sabotaging our own. “But other countries” is always an excuse for people who want to see the planet burn. The vote was party line.

Iran Policy

Two votes enabled senators to flex their hawkishness toward Iran.

The Senate voted 86 to 12 TX GOP Senator Cruz’s motion to instruct the negotiators that terrorism-related sanctions on Iran are necessary to limit cooperation between Iran and China.

Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only Republican among the 12 NO votes. The other dissenting votes from the display of hawkishness were Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brain Schatz (D-HI), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The Senate voted 62 to 33 for a motion from James Lankford (R-OK) to instruct conferees to prohibit Biden from lifting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s terrorism designation and require any Iran deal to address China’s purchases of Iranian oil.

Rand Paul (R-KY) again joined Democrats in opposition. Sixteen Democrats joined Republicans in support: Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Animal Cruelty

The House version of the COMPETES Act contained a provision to ban mink farming throughout the United States. The US does not have a domestic market for mink, and the factory farming of mink is done to export to luxury consumers in China. The industry is rife with animal cruelty, and it is also perfectly designed to spread disease.

The Senate, in contrast to the House, chose to protect the mink industry, voting 59 to 33 in favor of a motion from Ron Johnson (R-WI) to instruct negotiators to reject any efforts to ban the possession, acquirement, receipt, transportation, sale, or purchase of mink raised in captivity in US fur production.

Eleven Democrats joined Republicans in voting for it: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Worker Power vs. Corporate Power

Preventing Union-Busting: The Senate shamefully rejected 87 to 6 a motion from Bernie Sanders (I-VT) motion to instruct the conferees to require that semiconductor manufacturing companies receiving federal aid in the science and tech research funding bill don’t block their employees from unionizing and outsource their jobs. Only Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined him.

Handing Out Corporate Giveaways: On the flip side, the Senate voted 90 to 5 for a motion from Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to instruct negotiators to support expanding R&D tax credits for small businesses, with no strings attached. The only dissenting votes were Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-MA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Subsidizing Jeff Bezos: The Senate voted 78 to 17 to reject Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) motion to instruct conferees to cut the $10 billion in funding for NASA’s lunar lander program destined for a company owned by Jeff Bezos (who certainly doesn’t need the money).

The bipartisan group that joined Sanders were John Boozman (R-AR), Mike Braun (R-IN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Josh Hawley (R-MO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-FL), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).



Jonathan Cohn

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