After thirteen hours of voting that lasted into the early hours of the morning, the US Senate passed its first budget in nearly four years just after 3 am on Saturday.
There was much to yawn about, however, and seemingly little to cheer for a Senate this week that found it impossible to find enough votes to re-instate the assault weapons ban or put any meaningful measures in place to curtail the runaway gun violence in the country.
In addition to a vote calling for the approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline from Canada and a vote against signing an international arms trade treaty, the Senate voted on nearly a hundred other separate amendments.
Among those were a slew of Republican-backed amendments designed to undermine protections for the nation’s air, land, wildlife and public health.
According to the Center of Biological Diversity, the GOP's "backdoor" proposals included efforts to stop the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and slash funding for protection of native wildlife under the Endangered Species Act, placing hundreds of animals and plants at risk of extinction.
“Senate Republicans once again pandered to powerful special interests at the expense of wildlife, our climate and a healthy environment for people,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s ugly to see so many politicians doing so much to try to dismantle crucial environmental laws.”
The Senate's budget, which passed 50-49, was recounted by the Associated Press with the following:
Many of the proposals were offered in hopes of inflicting political damage on Democratic senators up for re-election in GOP-leaning states like Alaska and Louisiana.
Some $1 trillion in new revenue would flow to the government over the coming decade — on top of more than $600 billion in taxes on upper-income earners approved in January — and would be coupled with a net $875 billion in spending cuts. Those reductions would be generated by modest cuts to federal health care programs, domestic agencies and the Pentagon and reduced government borrowing costs. The budget proposes $100 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects and job training programs.
The president will reveal his own overdue tax-and-spending plan in two weeks, a plan that will be judged in part by whether it offers new, more politically risky proposals that could form the foundation for a bipartisan agreement between the two houses.
And Politico added:
The 12-hour series of votes — more than 100 amendments were considered, breaking a previous “vote-a-rama” record — is mostly political theater and gives both sides the opportunity to force votes on pet issues. The budget is non-binding, therefore none of the passed amendments will likely carry the weight of law.
But the votes are symbolic victories, demonstrating the ability of one side to rally enough senators to support a measure in hopes of using those votes for future bills. It also gives both sides a litany of roll calls to try to clobber their opponents during the next election.
The Hill cataloged just some of the most distracting and ideological of the GOP amendments, all of which went down to defeat:
- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) amendment 184, to expedite exports from the United States through reform of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 in such a manner that greenhouse gas emissions produced outside the United States by any good exported from the United States are not subject to the requirements of that Act, passed by voice vote.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) amendment 382, to increase funding for interstate bridges and pay for it with funding that would have gone to for foreign assistance and the Department of Energy loan guarantees, failed 26-72.
- Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) amendment 526, to require photo ID to vote in federal elections, 44-54
- Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) amendment 338, to end subsidized mobile phone service, failed 46-53.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) amendment 471, to reduce aid to Egypt to pay for the East Coast Missile Defense Shield, 25-74.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) amendment 702, to raise a point of order to prohibit funds to the United Nations while any member nation forces involuntary abortions, 38-61
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) amendment 673, to raise a point of order on a bill that would limit the Second Amendment, failed 50-49 to waive the budget act (60 votes are required).