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Term: “Vote-a-Rama”

Definition: A series of stacked votes in short succession. 

Used in a Sentence: “The Senate’s famous budget ‘vote-a-rama’ on Thursday won’t change any laws — far from it, it’s a daylong, only-in-Congress charade, the main purpose of which is to make the other party look bad and score political points.”  -Politico, Senate vote-a-rama: A charade with consequences

History: Senate rules allow for special consideration of amendments during the budget process. After 50 hours of debate on the budget, Senators may bring any remaining amendments, as long as they are germane (relevant to the legislation at hand), to the floor for a vote. The budget is not subject to filibuster and only 51 votes are needed to pass a measure. When a vote-a-rama starts, Senators are given a few minutes introduce their amendment and state their case. The opposition is usually then given a short period of time to present their argument. Then the Senate votes; each vote lasts about ten minutes. This process repeats for each amendment presented and ruled germane. Amendments may be filed any time before the vote-a-rama begins, or they may be presented any time before the voting concludes. 

What it Means: Today, the Senate finalized “vote-a-rama” and took a final vote on the budget, S.Con.Res.11, at 3:00 AM after considering 49 amendments. According to the Senate website, the next record setting year was 44 in 2008 on S.Con.Res.13. This is a record number of amendments to be considered in the Senate in one day since 1977. Some of the votes were for mere political posturing; some will serve as “test votes” for later votes on related legislation. Over 640 amendments had been filed and approximately 60 votes were to be considered on the floor beginning at noon. Amendments ranged from campaign finance, to the minimum wage, to taxes, to the disclosure of “Obamacare taxes” on insurance premiums (for more information on the process visit McClatchy DC’s “10 steps to today’s Senate vote-a-rama”). This marathon session is a big step in the process in finalizing the fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget resolution. Last year, there was no vote-a-rama because the 2013 Ryan-Murray agreement set top spending levels for FY14 and FY15. The House must now pass a budget, which will then be conferenced with the Senate-passed budget plan.