Senate Budget Mania

UPDATE 11:43. Senate passes budget 55-43.

The Senate had its hands full today as it continued consideration of the budget. Today was a "vote-a-rama," a quirky part of the budget process where Senators are allowed to propose amendments unfettered. 

As of early this evening, more than 200 had been submitted. Senators frequently demanded roll call votes, which led Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) to comment that if roll call votes were demanded for all amendments, they would be there for more than a day just to vote on them all.

But as of this post, 82 amendments were approved after a combination of unanimous consent agreements and votes. 

Most of these amendments are political posturing. Since the budget resolution is non-binding, almost all of these amendments have no practical effect. Even if they did, the House's procedure for consideration of the budget will strip out the Senate version and replace it with the version the House passes. Any changes from the House resolution will thus occur in conference committee.

Meaningless or not, here is a quick pick of three important (or interesting) amendments passed today:

1. This one is actually a pair, S.AMDT 873 (from Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)) and S.AMDT 974, from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Kyl's amendment raised the estate tax exemption to $5 million and lowers the tax rate to 35 percent. Durbin's amendment bans any legislation that has an estate-tax rate below 45 percent. The two have almost exactly opposite effects. The amendments passed 51-48 and 56-43, respectively.

2. S. AMDT 910, proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), prohibits legislation that includes a national energy tax that would affect the middle class. According to the amendment, "The term  `National energy tax increase'' means any legislation that the Congressional Budget Office would score as leading to an increase in the costs of producing, generating or consuming energy." This amendment passed 65-33.

3. S. AMDT 803, sponsored by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, requires a 60-vote threshold for legislation that would increase revenues raised by lowering the deduction for charitable giving. The Senate version of the budget contains no such provisions, but it did not impede the measure on its way to passing 94-3.

The House passed their version of the budget earlier this evening — 233-196, with all Republicans and 20 Democrats voting no. As of this post, the Senate has three amendments to consider and will then vote on final passage.