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Vote-a-rama cometh

PH2010032304610.jpgYesterday, the Republicans' gambit to derail the vote on the reconciliation fixes was thrown out by the Senate parliamentarian. That's not the end of their options, but it means they're left trying to slow the bill down rather than stop it altogether.

The budget reconciliation process limits debate to 20 hours, which means you can't filibuster. But it doesn't limit the number of amendments you can propose. So that's where Republicans are concentrating their efforts: As of this writing, the prescribed 20 hours of debate leading up to those amendments is ongoing, and Democrats have decided to give up their remaining seven hours to speed the process along. When that ends, the GOP has at least 32 amendments waiting, and they could introduce hundreds, or even thousands, more. The expectation is that the Senate should get to the amendments tonight (at least barring another Republican attempt to make everyone go home at 2 p.m.). At that point vote-a-rama commences.

Vote-a-rama is what happens when the Senate has a ton of amendments to deal with and not a lot of time to deal with them. Each amendments gets a minute of debate on both sides and then a 10-minute vote. They go till the amendments are finished. In this case, they're likely to go well into the night.

Republicans could try to stretch this out by proposing 600 more amendments. But someone would have to write those amendments. They would all have to be germane to the bill and friendly to the deficit. And Democrats can just keep knocking them back. The Republican strategy, however, appears to have moved from delay to embarrassment. Because Senate Democrats don't want to change the reconciliation bill and send it back to the House for another vote, they want to reject all Republican amendments. So Republicans are proposing amendments that will be embarrassing for them to reject. This strategy has reached its logical apotheosis in Sen. Tom Coburn's amendment "prohibiting coverage of Viagra for child molesters and rapists."

But embarrassment is temporary. Delay, particularly in the Senate, can be forever. So why have Republicans apparently moved away from the endless-amendments strategy?

The answer is that Obama already signed the Senate bill and Democrats already celebrated. When it seemed that the Senate bill wouldn't pass until reconciliation finished, there was energy on the Republican side to do everything possible to kill or slow reconciliation. Now that the Senate bill is finished and the Democrats are celebrating and the cameras are slowly flickering off? Well, sitting around voting on 632 amendments is no more fun for the Republicans than the Democrats, and they have families they want to see and fundraisers they need to attend. Obstruction would be no more fun for them than for the Democrats, and it might make them look petulant in the eyes of voters who want Congress to just move on from health care already.

Photo credit: Melina Mara/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 24, 2010; 10:35 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: More trouble for the repeal effort
Next: Time to stop talking about the Senate bill


saw this one amendment yesterday and absolutely loved it. Too bad it (along with others have no chance).

Congress Should Not Lecture Americans About Fiscal Responsibility - This amendment would strike the creation of a new $375 million government program the new health bill (The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) intended to promote personal and financial responsibility. It is ironic that Congress, that amassed a $12 trillion deficit, should lecture Americans about financial responsibility. This government “responsibility” program duplicates existing government programs and adds hundreds of millions of dollars to the tax burden funds. In short, there is nothing responsible about the new responsibility program

That's like an alcoholic walking out of a bar and filming a PSA for AA.

Posted by: visionbrkr | March 24, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

"This strategy has reached its logical apotheosis in Sen. Tom Coburn's amendment 'prohibiting coverage of Valoogra for child molesters and rapists.'"

So what you're telling me, Ezra, is that Democrats are going to support coverage of Valoogra for child molesters and rapists?

My, my. While such bizarre posturing should perhaps make me ashamed of my party, I just see it as a form of meta-humor. I giggled when I read that. Better than The Onion.

Although the hi-jinks are definitely adolescent in their nature. I can't condone them. Even when they put a smile on my face.

That being said, this form of obstruction will be much better for the Republicans than going home at 2pm every day. This is red meat--Valoogra for child molesters!--that they can take home to the tea party. "And we insisted we go home at 2pm and play X-Box for the rest of the night!" is less of a rallying cry.

WaPo won't let me include the brand name originally in the article, so I substituted Valoogra. Hope that's not too confusing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Do we know what the 32 Amendments are at this point? Would any of them actually improve the bill? What are we hearing from Senate Dems about their ability to remain united against all of these Amendments? How about House Dems, how angry would they be if some of these Amendments get through and they have to vote again on this package?

Posted by: MosBen | March 24, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

This goes to show that Republicans have nothing better to do. How about giving some thought to financial reform? Jobs? Voting on appointments? They are behaving like a bunch of petulant children who would rather die than swallow some fish oil. I hope the more reasonable citizens will remember this sad spectacle in November.

Posted by: serban1 | March 24, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Shouldn't Coburn's Viagara amendment be ruled out of order without having to be voted on since it doesnt actually change the budget? Isn't this the same principle as why abortion restrictions couldnt come up in reconciliation?

Posted by: gregspolitics | March 24, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

when all is said and done,
we have a health care reform bill that americans are going to be extremely pleased with, as they accustom themselves to the benefits it will provide.
there is a real buoyancy now....and a confidence and purposefulness in the leadership of barack obama, that has re-invigorated the democratic party.

the news is good for the democrats.
this has been a major victory for the democrats.
winning is winning.
and losing is losing.
democrats are the winning ticket now, going forward.
there is enthusiasm, satisfaction, unity and momentum.
and a strengthened president and leadership that has come together.
it was a good moment watching stupak stand up in defense of the president.
when our unity cannot be chipped away, and we moved forward together, that is quite wonderful.
there is wind under our wings.

Posted by: jkaren | March 24, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

A shorter post could have been:
Republicans did not get their way so now they will proceed with their temper tantrum.
What a bunch of whiny toddlers.

Posted by: vintagejulie | March 24, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I like several of the amendments the republicans have posted - for example:
- all political appointees, members of congress and congressional staff would be required to use the goverment exchange for their insurance
- lowering the interest rate on student loans. Whey should the government, as it takes over the loan program, profit from the program and then spend the money on other issues?
- Extending Medicaid raised reimbursement rates. Apparently the dems pulled another budget gimick by providing increased reimbursements for general practitioners so they can tout the increases, but the increases end in 2015.

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Posted by: linjian76 | March 24, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Er, termiteavenger, the new law already makes members of Congress & their staffs participate in the exchanges.

See today's Post

Posted by: bigfish2 | March 24, 2010 12:25 PM | Report abuse

"it might make them look petulant"

Hee hee hoo ha hahhahahahahahahaha...gasp, wheeze ...... hooooooo

Posted by: zuzu2 | March 24, 2010 12:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm really enjoying the GOP freak-out on this. The thing a lot of people still haven't figured out, oddly enough, is that when you bloviate hysterically about how terrible something is, and then it proves not to be that bad, people stop believing you.

There are numerous examples of this, from the "war" on drugs, to terrorism and Iraq. And come November, if the GOP are still shrieking about how bad the ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions is, the voters will roll their eyes and vote for the other guy.

So please, GOPers, keep counting your chickens before they hatch. I'm enjoying the spectacle.

Posted by: edta | March 24, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure I understand the big deal about this process....I was just watching c-span, and I heard several of the Republican amendments. All seemed germane, all were common other words, they seemed like things everyone would WANT to support. AND they strengthen the bill.

I understand that if the bill gets changed in any way in the Senate, it has to go back to the House for a vote of approval to the changes. But if all of these things are germane AND would otherwise garner 100% support from both sides, what's the big deal? The House votes again, with 219+, the bill gets better, everyone's happy.

I'm smelling politics...IOW, Democrats don't want Republicans to have the talking point that they helped make the bill better....this is petty.

Posted by: boosterprez | March 24, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

"Democrats don't want Republicans to have the talking point that they helped make the bill better....this is petty."

And being non participatory for the last 14 months is not "petty". Grow up.

GOP has done NOTHING but disrespectful childlike FEAR MONGERING for 14 months and now they think they can improve the bill. The GOP take all of us for idiots. Every last one of them should be voted out.

Posted by: dcperspective | March 24, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

dcperspective, with all due respect, you didn't answer the question. Why wouldn't Democrats want to make the bill better right now, instead of waiting another decade? I don't see that Democrats have anything to lose here. CAn you explain, in a respectful manner, what pre-empts Democrats from supporting any of these amendments?


Posted by: boosterprez | March 24, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Make them LOOK petulant? They ARE petulant. It's all they have left: stomping their feet and crying "Cheaters! Cheaters!" like my son used to do when he was five.

The difference is that I could take the boy aside and explain to him that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and that crying about it when you lose just makes you look silly.

It's something the GOP doesn't seem to have mastered. Plays well to the drama-queen teabaggers, though.

Posted by: dustyrhoades | March 24, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

@edta: "is that when you bloviate hysterically about how terrible something is, and then it proves not to be that bad, people stop believing you."

Actually, this rarely happens. And, if it does happen, they eventually forget and start believing you again.

"he GOP are still shrieking about how bad the ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions is"

The GOP has supported the ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions, since the beginning. They argued that it was "all that other bad stuff" that made Obama's HCR a bad thing.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 24, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

[Actually, this rarely happens.]

Actually, it happens all the time. And I even gave two examples of it.

[The GOP has supported the ban on discrimination for pre-existing conditions, since the beginning.]

And yet, they voted against the bill, claiming there was nothing good about it. And now they are promising to repeal HCR in full, because, of course, there are no good things about it.

Posted by: edta | March 24, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The republicans believe the only way a sex offender should get an erection is by molesting a young boy. The way God, and the catholic church, intended.

Posted by: jonnnney | March 24, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"The Hill" is reporting tonight that the Republicans basically folded their hand on Vote-a-rama. Instead of flooding the reconciliation bill with dozens or even hundreds of amendments, the Republicans have decided to stick to a much shorter list of substantive amendments, the Democrats have easily held the line, and the mood between the parties is described as "rarely tense" and marked with levity, with the Democrats enjoying lobster rolls in honor of Ted Kennedy's memory.

The shift in Republican strategy and tone should allow for a final vote well ahead of the expected schedule, perhaps as early as the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Perhaps the decision by the Republicans to roll over on reconciliation (and thereby get away from DC for their customary long weekend) will cause the GOP's rabid dogs who have been threatening Democratic legislators to turn some of their bite back on their masters, who are not staging any serious challenge to the supposed "jamming through" of the sidecar.

In any event, Vote-a-rama and the supposed drama of the Parliamentarian's rulings have been a big yawner.

Posted by: Patrick_M | March 25, 2010 1:31 AM | Report abuse

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