The Democrats may get their $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill through Congress, but it’s not going through without a lot of pain being inflicted by the Republican opposition.
One of the quirks of using the reconciliation process is that it gives the opposition the ability to bring as many non-binding resolutions to the floor as possible. It’s called a “vote-a-rama” because there can be literally dozens of votes on issues ranging from the serious to the sublime to the silly. And Democrats can’t do anything to stop it.
The process is solely designed to inflict pain on the party trying to use reconciliation to pass a budget resolution rather than use the regular order where the filibuster could be in play. The process exacts a political price for using it and Republicans took complete advantage of the moment to embarrass the Democrats into going on record supporting all sorts of things they deny supporting — like critical race theory and banning fracking.
Much fun was had by all — at least the Republicans.
But GOP senators extracted their pound of flesh during the vote-a-rama, getting Democrats on the record on dozens of issues that could serve as messaging points during the 2022 midterms. They even forced Democrats to split on several issues, therefore successfully passing some of their amendments.
One of those victories was an amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton R-Ark., supporting banning federal funds from backing critical race theory in schools. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., joined all 49 Republicans present to vote in favor of the amendment.
This evening the Senate PASSED my amendment to prevent federal funds from being used to promote Critical Race Theory in schools.
Our future depends on raising a generation of kids who love America. pic.twitter.com/rVLW6b8XiB
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) August 11, 2021
The GOP also got several Democratic senators to go on record supporting fracking, no doubt causing a lot of green heads to explode around the country.
Republicans forced Democrats to split on a several other votes. Eight Democrats backed a proposal from Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., that would block the Environmental Protection Agency from banning fracking. Four Democrats voted for an amendment by Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., opposing any policies from the Department of Agriculture that would cut federal funding to fossil fuel plants.
“A fracking ban would weaken national security, increase global emissions, and take more money out of the pockets of hardworking Americans,” Cramer tweeted. “By enacting one, Democrats would be putting their reckless agenda ahead of the needs of their constituents. Glad my amendment passed.”
A vote on banning abortions of Down syndrome kids was defeated with Republican Senator Susan Collins opposing it.
All in all, it was a good night for the GOP, even though Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama made a rookie mistake and allowed Democrats to go on the record opposing defunding police. Senator Cory Booker reacted with sarcastic joy.
“If it wasn’t a complete abdication of Senate procedures and esteem, I would walk over there and hug my colleague from Alabama,” Booker added. “There’s some people who have said that there are members of this deliberative body that want to defund the police… This senator has given us the gift of finally once and for all we can put to bed the scurrilous accusation.”
That’s probably wishful thinking as there are plenty of examples of Democratic senators and congressmen on the record supporting the “Defund the Police” movement. One meaningless vote in the Senate isn’t going to change that.
Besides that, the entire issue is moot. Not even radical socialists in places like Minneapolis want to cut any more from the police departments and are talking about hiring more cops thanks to sky-high murder rates. The issue already did its part in defeating the Democrats in 2020.
All of these amendments are non-binding but they’re very useful in a political sense. Expect to see challengers to many of those Democrats using these votes as weapons of attack in 2022.