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Senate All-Nighter Reveals Cracks Among Democrats: Key Takeaways

PoliticsAug 11, 2021 16:26
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2/2 © Bloomberg. Joe Manchin Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg 2/2

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate is prepared to pursue President Joe Biden’s plan to remake the economy, but an all-night voting session to approve the legislative vehicle to begin that process exposed some cracks in Democrats’ no-room-for-error majority.

Democrats largely hung together on key votes protecting the underlying budget blueprint teeing up Biden’s $3.5 trillion package -- paid for in part with tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations -- and rejected amendments opposing tax increases. The Senate passed the budget resolution on a party-line vote, shifting focus toward the House later this month.

The amendments offered during the marathon voting session, which ended about 4 a.m. Wednesday in Washington, are largely just for messaging and don’t compel Congress to act, but the vote tallies shed light on how lawmakers’ stances on specific issues and highlight areas of division.

Here are highlights from the 41 amendments offered during the Senate’s so-called vote-a-rama:

Dissenting Duo

Moderate senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia bucked their own party on several votes, demonstrating their ideological distance from colleagues on some issues. The two senators are regarded as those most likely to object to Biden’s plans and to request changes to make the bill less costly.

Manchin repeatedly voted with Republicans on some social issues, including a proposal opposing federal funding to promote “critical race theory” in schools and one to keep the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortions.

Sinema was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans on an amendment that supported shielding family businesses from inheritance taxes, but called on the wealthy to pay their “fair share.” A similar proposal that didn’t include that reference to the wealthy passed unanimously.

After the vote, Manchin released a statement saying that he had “grave concerns” about the $3.5 trillion price tag. Sinema late last month also said in a statement that “while I will support beginning this process, I do not support a bill that costs $3.5 trillion.”

Electric Vehicles

Manchin and Sinema, along with Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly, defected from their party on a Republican proposal to recommend limits on electric-vehicle tax credits -- exposing a split on energy-policy issues ahead of tough negotiations on what Democratic leaders and the White House intend to be the most ambitious climate package in history.

Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska proposed to prohibit people making more than $100,000 a year from claiming EV tax credits and to end tax credits for EVs that cost more than $40,000 -- levels that would exclude many of the electric vehicles on the market or planned to come out in the next few years, including those promoted by Biden recently at the White House.

Fracking Fractures

Democrats also continue to be cautious about sweeping energy policy that would quickly displace legacy fossil fuels. The chamber unanimously agreed to an amendment that disapproves of the Green New Deal, the framework to overhaul the country’s energy use and convert to 100% emissions-free power sources.

Eight senators who caucus with Democrats also voted for a measure that asks the Council on Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency not to issue any regulations that restrict fracking. Curbing that extraction method is a key priority for progressives, but important to Democrats who represent states like Colorado, Montana, and Pennsylvania, where it’s a lucrative industry.

‘Fund the Police’

Democrats turned tables on the GOP’s political talking point characterizing them as backing a “defund the police” campaign. All 99 senators present backed GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville’s amendment opposing defunding police, with Democratic Senator Cory Booker jumping up to shout about how the amendment was a gift to Democrats and countered the lie that any senator backed the idea.

The Senate then voted, after 1 a.m., by 95-3 in favor of Republican Josh Hawley’s amendment supporting the idea of hiring 100,000 more police officers; Democrat Dick Durbin congratulated Hawley for backing an idea written into law by then-Senator Joe Biden decades ago. Only Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, and Republicans Pat Toomey and Mike Lee voted against it.

Immigration Debate

Democrats were split on immigration, in several cases backing GOP proposals with the blessing of party leadership. Democrats are contemplating using the budget bill to address immigration, but divisions over how to approach the issue, along with the arcane rules governing what can qualify for inclusion in the so-called budget reconciliation process, could complicate the effort.

About half of Senate Democrats joined Republicans on an amendment from Republican Jerry Moran that supports increased immigration enforcement at the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats also overwhelmingly backed an amendment from Republican Roger Marshall that disapproves of transporting migrants without negative Covid-19 tests.

Durbin, the lead Democrat on immigration talks, railed against the proposal in a floor speech only to ultimately vote in the affirmative, along with 38 of his Democratic colleagues.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Senate All-Nighter Reveals Cracks Among Democrats: Key Takeaways
 

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