Nine-Hour Vote-a-Rama Gets Under Way

Posted March 24, 2010 at 5:00pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) kicked off the start of the Senate’s vote-a-rama on health care reconciliation Wednesday night by warning Senators they would be voting nonstop until the wee hours of the morning.

Reid said that with just the 21 amendments currently pending, the voting would take nine hours “of continuous votes without any breaks — and we’re not going to have any breaks unless something untoward happens.”

Reid said the presiding officer would strictly enforce the one minute each side would have to explain or oppose each amendment and that he would close votes promptly after 10 minutes.

Reid added, “This is taking an inordinate amount of time to do this, so everyone stay here. It works a lot better if you stay very close to your seats, and we’ll hopefully have an orderly process, as much as possible, during the vote-a-rama.”

Still, Reid acknowledged that the voting process could take longer than the nine hours he estimated, if Republicans continue to offer amendments or force votes on budget points of order, which they are allowed to do under the rules.

Reid attacked Republicans for using procedural tactics to not only slow passage of the reconciliation bill, but all work in the Senate. Noting that the GOP had refused to allow the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold a budget and oversight hearing on North Korea — including its nuclear program — Reid accused Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his colleagues of attempting “to throw a monkey wrench into everything we’re trying to do to help the American people.”

But McConnell said Republicans were fighting on behalf of the American people, who he said oppose the bill.

“The administration and some in Congress would like this debate to be over. They want to American people to sit down and quiet down,” McConnell said on the floor before the votes began. “Well, Republicans think that Congress serves the people, not the other way around. So we fought on behalf of the American people this week and we’ll continue to fight until this bill is repealed and replaced with common-sense ideas that solve our problems without dismantling the health care system we have.”