April 12, 2021

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What you can expect to receive from the Senate stimulus bill

2 min read
The U.S. Capitol building is shown after sunset Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Washington.
The U.S. Capitol building is shown after sunset Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

Senate Democrats’ push to quickly pass President Biden’s Covid-19 relief package is about to meet a time-consuming and stamina-challenging speed bump known as a “vote-a-rama.”

Republicans are planning to use the process to put Democrats in a tough position to not just stay united, but also consistent about the stimulus package.

Multiple GOP members and aides familiar with the planning previously told CNN that the plan is two-fold: try to peel Democratic members off on a few key amendment votes to highlight differences within the Democratic ranks as well as create some ripe-for-campaign moments that can be made into political ads later on.

Here’s what you need to know:

What is a vote-a-rama?: Usually in the legislative process, lawmakers can use a series of procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on amendments. But in a budget reconciliation process — which Democrats are using to advance their bill — you can’t do that.

Lawmakers cannot hold a final vote on a reconciliation bill until all the amendments have been “disposed of,” or in simpler terms “voted on.” The practice involves votes on a series of amendments that can — and usually do — stretch for hours.

How do lawmakers use the process? The party in charge typically wants to move this vote-a-rama along as quickly as possible with as few votes as possible. The minority party takes the opportunity to force votes on all kinds of measures they don’t typically have the power to put on the floor.

How long does each vote take?: Usually, lawmakers agree to a process that looks a lot like this.

  • Lawmaker introduces an amendment (sometimes it is just written on a piece of paper).
  • There is a minute of debate equally divided by each side.
  • 10 minutes to vote.

Each amendment takes about 15 minutes or so to get through. The process moves quickly by Senate standards, which is why it is so important for members to basically stay in or close by the chamber for the entire marathon event.

Read more here.


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