Senate Schedules Vote-A-Rama [The 10 Things DRTV Should Know]

by Bill McClellan on Mar 26, 2015 3:30:00 AM Advocacy

WhoVoted-032852-editedStop the presses! The Senate has scheduled a Vote-A-Rama during the budget resolution vote. More than 100 amendments may get voted in rapid succession in what is called the “Vote-A-Rama.”

What to Expect:  

The Vote-A-Rama consists of votes that are non-binding. It really is political theater at its best. The word on the street is that we can expect a vote on Internet Sales Tax and attempts to repeal the recent FCC Net Neutrality ruling.

There is no reason for DRTV marketers to panic though—the “Vote-A-Rama” is mostly for show. 

Here are 10 things you need to know:

1. It’s “open mic night.” Any Senator can offer any amendment on any topic.

2. It’s as close to real democracy as the Senate gets. No filibusters, holds, or cloture. Leadership cannot block or “fill the tree.” No debate, as all time for discussion has expired… just voting.

3. It’s all for show. Even if the Senate passes an amendment 100-0, it carries no legal force. The budget is a non-binding “resolution” and cannot be vetoed or signed into law.

4. It’s all about politics. Both parties look to force colleagues into politically-tough or embarrassing votes, setting up future campaign attacks and demagoguery.

5. It’s hard to lobby. Many amendments are offered at the last minute to ambush others and avoid advocates. Votes occur in rapid succession without deliberation or debate, with all 100 Senators on the floor or in the Cloakroom and no longer reachable.

6. It’s over quickly. Several hundred amendments get floated initially, but Members usually withdraw those that are redundant or not top priorities. The effort gets old fast and Senators want to leave for spring break and foreign codels.

7. It doesn’t happen every year. No Vote-A-Rama was held in 2003, 2011, 2012, or 2013, when the Senate failed to pass a budget.

8. It has grown more political over time. Senators have been introducing more amendments and fighting fewer each year. In the '80s, an average of 47 amendments were offered and 36 percent passed. In the '90s, it was ~61 offered and 55 percent passed; the 2000s saw ~69 offered and 70 percent passed.

9. It’s politically revealing. In addition to Sen. Cruz, who just announced his candidacy on Monday, four more sitting Senators may run for President (Paul, Rubio, Sanders, and Warren). 2016 watchers will eagerly observe which amendments they introduce and support. The hard votes of Vote-A-Ramas are one reason so few Senators win the White House.

10. It “whip checks” the hottest issues. This year observers expect the following amendments, among many others:

MARKETPLACE FAIRNESS ACT (MFA): Forcing Remote Retailers to collect sales taxes online

NET NEUTRALITY: Reversing the FCC vote to regulate the Internet as a utility

IMMIGRATION: Reversing the President’s 2014 Executive Order; re-passing the 2013 reform bill

FOREIGN POLICY: Requiring Congressional approval for any nuclear arms deal with Iran

INVERSIONS: Punishing companies accused of avoiding taxes by reincorporating abroad

DEFENSE SPENDING: Avoiding $54 billion in defense spending cuts scheduled for FY2016

HEALTH CARE: Repealing ACA and medical device tax; re-defining work week as “40 hours”

ENERGY: Accelerating export of liquefied natural gas & oil; reversing new EPA regulations

SURVEILLANCE: Limiting national security surveillance of U.S. citizens or via commercial goods

TRADE: Promoting open markets through trade promotion authority

REPATRIATION: Allowing repatriation of U.S. corporate profits trapped abroad (by high U.S. rates) to fund infrastructure and/or sequestration relief


A special thanks to the team over at Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen Bingel & Thomas for tracking the Vote-A-Rama for ERA and compiling the information for this industry report.

Photo Credit: Robert Palmer


Bill McClellan's blog
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