This week, President Joe Biden shirked off a request from several moderate Republican Senators to work on a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats led by Budget Chairman Bernie Sanders laid the path for a budget resolution establishing a framework for massive new federal taxpayer spending for coronavirus relief that subverts the 60-vote requirement of the legislative filibuster. Their tactic guaranteed passage on a party-line vote after an all-night amendment marathon and Vice President Harris showing up to break the 50-50 tie.
This first partisan showdown by President Biden and his new Senate majority was proof enough that any talk of unifying Washington D.C. policymakers is nothing more than lip service. It previewed the coming battle over whether the filibuster will stand and the issues that will define the differences between the two parties and their priorities.
The process was not without a tactical opportunity for Republicans to file hundreds of amendments for floor consideration (over 800 in all were filed) and secure several votes on key issues during the 50 hours of debate. In a letter to Senators, Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee (CWALAC) signaled our intent to score relevant amendments related to our seven core issues. Of the forty-five amendments that received votes, CWALAC identified six votes that will be included on our scorecard, which have put Senators on record for the next election on some key issues.
Two of the six amendments passed to become part of the budget resolution. The others failed:
Protecting Life: Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) offered a Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act amendment to create criminal and civil penalties for medical providers who fail to exercise the same degree of care for babies who survive an abortion or attempted abortion as would be provided to another child born at the same gestational age. The vote failed 52-48 (all Republicans plus Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin [West Virginia] and Bob Casey [Pennsylvania] voted yes). Sixty votes were required under the Budget Act due to a lack of germaneness as a non-budget measure.
Supreme Court Packing: Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) offered an amendment to prevent attempts to increase the number of Supreme Court Justices beyond nine. The amendment put Senators on record on the issue of court-packing. On a failed 50-50 vote, every Senate Democrat opposed the amendment indicating that every one of them would support adding justices to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overrule the current 6-3 conservative majority.
Religious Freedom: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) offered an amendment to prohibit infringing the free exercise of religion in employment, commerce, social services, faith and community partnerships, or access to housing, healthcare, or education. With 60-votes needed, the amendment failed 50-50 with Sen. Manchin voting yes and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) voting no across party lines. In his remarks, Sen. Lee cited the targeting of Little Sisters of Poor because of their religious beliefs as a reason why this protection is needed.
Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) offered an amendment to limit COVID-19 relief payments to states or localities that impose greater limits on the content of speech or restrictions on religious exercise, houses of worship, and faith-based organizations under the pandemic. This measure passed 51-49 with Sen. Manchin crossing the aisle.
Reopening schools: Senators Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) offered an amendment that would withhold additional coronavirus funds to schools that do not reopen for in-person learning after teachers have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The amendment failed on a party-line vote.
U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem: Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tennessee) offered an amendment which shows the Biden Administration that any attempt to undo President Trump’s historic move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 would not have Senate support. Their amendment requires the United States to maintain its Israel embassy in Jerusalem and passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 97-3.
With final passage of the budget measure after an all-night vote-a-rama, Democrats will now be able to write a partisan reconciliation bill that can bypass the filibuster in the Senate. Eleven Senate committees are now instructed to report legislation for the $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending package demanded by President Biden by February 16. One month after losing two seats in the Georgia runoff election, Senate Republicans must exercise every muscle as the minority party to hold the line against the radical political priorities of the left.
By: Doreen Denny, Vice President of Government Relations