At some point in the next 24 hours — after a long process of voting on a series of amendments — the Senate will pass their budget resolution to unlock their ability to write and pass a major Covid-relief bill with just 51 votes.
A reminder: The budget resolution is not the Covid-19 relief bill. It is just the shell that gives committees the ability to go on and write the Covid-19 relief bill and eventually pass it with just a simple majority.
First, however, lawmakers will have to get through what is known as a budget vote-a-rama.
Usually in the legislative process, lawmakers can use a series of procedural maneuvers to avoid voting on amendments. In a budget resolution, you can’t do that. You cannot hold a final vote on a budget resolution until all the amendments have been “disposed of” or in simpler terms “voted on.”
The practice involves votes on a series of amendments that can stretch for hours (and hours). There’s a lot of snacks and (sometimes refreshments of the alcoholic variety) involved in helping members get through the evening.
None of these amendments are binding. None of the amendments change the underlying bill. But, the amendment votes serve as a way for each party to force the other side on the record about controversial issues. This is where future political ads are born.
What time does this vote-a-rama get started? Multiple aides tell CNN that the expectation is to begin the vote-a-rama around 2:30 p.m. ET. That’s earlier than some past ones, but there is no prediction of when this will end. It keeps going until members get tired and leadership strikes a deal to end the whole thing.
What does each vote mean? The votes themselves don’t have any effect on the budget resolution. They are non-binding, which means they can’t change the bill and become law. These are votes of principles. And each party uses them to force the other side to take hard votes.