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Will There Be Drama in Senate ‘Vote-a-rama’?

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; photo by Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., checks his phone as he takes the U.S. Capitol subway on Thursday. Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call.

The Morning Line

Here’s a little primer for the day ahead in politics.

On Thursday, members of the House voted to fund the government, approved a budget and beat it out of town for Easter recess, leaving the Senate behind to spend all day on the floor arguing over minor amendments to a 10-year spending plan.

The marathon session, known — ahem — affectionately in Washington as a “vote-a-rama,” could last into the night. Lawmakers will debate abortion, repealing the Affordable Care Act, whether they deserve automatic pay raises and even the legality of drones.

And it doesn’t matter.

Sure, Senate Democrats will ultimately pass their budget for the first time in four years. It looks to raise taxes to boost infrastructure investments and maintain entitlement programs. But that’s dramatically different from the vision laid out by House Republicans in the form of Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s blueprint, which was approved Thursday by a vote of 221-207.

In theory, once Senate Democrats have their plan, negotiators would come to the table and hammer out a compromise. That’s how it works in most statehouses. But in an increasingly polarized Washington, and with the midterm elections feeling closer by the day, that’s not likely to be the process.

In fact, the Senate already rejected the Ryan budget on a 40-59 vote Thursday evening. It wasn’t Senate Republicans hoping to vote on that GOP vision for funding the government; Senate Democrats put forth the amendment to force their political rivals to take a position and unanimously opposed it. There were five Republican “no” votes, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

And don’t forget neither chamber has seen President Barack Obama’s budget, expected April 8. Pop quiz: How many presidential budgets have become law as introduced? That’s right: zero.

The action gets going Friday morning with the first series of votes. Some are interesting policy questions, dealing with education reform and sales tax on Internet purchases. Others are philosophical: an amendment requiring a balanced budget already failed.

And then there’s some for show: barring the budget from including tax increases if the unemployment rate is above 5.5 percent or dealing with contraception and other social issues.

Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski highlights the 10 budget amendments to keep an eye on. You can also follow along on the amendment tracker page created by Senate Republicans.

On Thursday’s NewsHour, Hari Sreenivasan reported on the latest in the fiscal fights on Capitol Hill, and Judy Woodruff talked with Todd Zwillich of PRI’s “The Takeaway” about the budget and some Senate moves on gun legislation.

Watch the segment here or below:


  • Mr. Obama spoke to students in Israel on Thursday, asking them not to give up on pursuing peace. Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post writes that the president “showed us the love” and Israelis swooned. Still, the trip so far has failed to exceed low expectations because of the president’s unambitious diplomacy agenda, the Los Angeles Times’ Carol Williams writes. The president is also traveling to Bethlehem in the West Bank and then will meet Jordan’s King Abdullah, where he likely will discuss Syria’s civil war. Margaret Warner reported from the trip on Thursday’s NewsHour.

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., now stands behind a background checks measure in any gun bill that passes through the Senate, and he said he would allow the assault weapons ban to get a vote in the form of an amendment. The guns legislation will be the first order of business when lawmakers return from recess.

  • Reuters’ Thomas Ferraro checks in with each member in the Gang of Eight, who “might be on the cusp of a major legislative breakthrough” in writing a Senate bill on immigration, which may include a 10- to 15-year path for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship or a green card.

  • Immigration protestors on Thursday stormed the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

  • Roll Call’s Jonathan Strong gets to the bottom of the Republican “no” votes on the Ryan budget.

  • The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee [voted],(http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/03/21/senate-panel-votes-to-confirm-jewell/) 19-3, to move the nomination of Sally Jewell to be interior secretary to the Senate floor.

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday that he was “fine” with civil unions. An aide to the Republican governor later walked back those comments, telling BuzzFeed that Kasich had used the term civil unions “loosely.”

  • The Respect for Marriage Coalition, which advocates for same-sex marriage, is buying $150,000 worth of air time for this new ad in the Washington, D.C., market.

  • Before Mitt Romney secured the Republican nomination, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrigh attempted to form a joint “Unity Ticket” to consolidate the conservative vote. Things broke down when they couldn’t agree over who would be president if they won, reports Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green.

  • “Republicans hold more than 30 of the 50 highest-profile, in-house lobbying jobs in town,” Politco’s Anna Palmer and Elizabeth Titus write to summarize their analysis.

  • First term Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin will lead the DSCC’s outreach efforts to women in 2014.

  • Meanwhile, who knew Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., strategized over the farm bill in the women’s bathrooms near the Senate floor? The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer examines the relationship and influence of women in the upper chamber.

  • The Atlantic’s Molly Ball ponders the question: Has Mr. Obama turned a generation of voters into lifelong Democrats?

  • A new Pew Research Center poll finds the president’s approval rating has slipped to 47 percent, down eight points since December.

  • Yahoo News’ Chris Wilson has an amazing diagram of Senate votes that we missed earlier this week.

  • National Journal’s Ron Brownstein explores how Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry’s rejection of Medicaid expansion could turn the state blue. (Hint: Hispanics make up 60 percent of the state’s uninsured).

  • Politico’s Maggie Haberman scoops that Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades and Republican National Committee research director Joe Pounder are launching an outside group called America Rising, which will focus on opposition research of Democratic candidates. The organization will also include RNC spokesman Tim Miller, who previously worked on Jon Huntsman’s presidential campaign.

  • Podesta Group’s Kevin Griffis, a veteran of the Obama campaign, Virginia politics and the Commerce Department, is moving to New Jersey to be a senior adviser for Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

  • Quarterback-turned-lobbyist? Drew Bledsoe is getting involved in a fight over wine.

  • The Onion makes a presidential birthright joke.

  • And even more paintings by former President George W. Bush!

  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA looks at per capita immigration by country, a measure in which the United States ranks well behind more than two dozen other countries.


  • Don’t miss Christina’s Google Hangout Friday morning at 11 a.m ET. We’ll be joined by four faith leaders — Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, United Church of Christ’s Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, Biola University’s Erik Thoennes and Notre Dame University’s Father Paulinus Odozor — for a discussion of religion and gay marriage ahead of the landmark Supreme Court arguments next week. On Twitter, use #churchandstate to send thoughts and questions.

  • Three years after Mr. Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Americans are still in the dark about how it works. Judy Woodruff blogged about a new survey that breaks down the numbers.

  • Kaiser Health News marks the third anniversary with a disuccsion about what lies ahead for governments, businesses and consumers.

  • It’s been a good week for introspection, according to Gwen Ifill. She writes that “every once in awhile, before they dive in and hit their heads, our leaders actually pause to engage in a little beneficial navel gazing.”

  • Kwame Holman talked with Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, one of the Democrats working on a bipartisan immigration package, about prospects for a deal.

  • What was the NewsHour’s first tweet? Meena Ganesan breaks it down.


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