July 25, 2017

Senate Reconciliation Voting Primer

Marty Paone

Now that the Senate has voted to proceed to healthcare, here’s what that will look like.

There is time limit for debate of 20 hours, equally divided between the two Leaders. So Senators McConnell and Schumer control 10 hours each, they usually yield that to their respective floor managers to control. Points of order and their motions to waive the Budget Act get 1 hour equally divided.

The time on roll call votes and spent by the clerk reading an amendment does not count against the time.

A first degree amendment, including a substitute,  gets 2 hours for debate; 1 hour under the control of the author of the amendment; 1 hour under the control of the manager that opposes the amendment.

Additional time for debate on an amendment may be yielded by either manager so that one amendment may take several hours for debate.  If someone wants to offer an amendment to an amendment they have to wait until all the amendment time has been consumed, the 2 hours mentioned above, and then they could offer an amendment to it, that amendment gets 1 hour for debate under the same terms as the first degree division of time with possible time yielded off the bill time. (amendments to amendments don’t happen often)

When the Senate finally votes on an amendment the Parliamentarian adds up all the time consumed by each side and subtracts that from the two 10 hour pots of time and the process begins again with the next amendment.

It’s possible to move things along that Senator McConnell/Enzi could yield back a large chunk of his 10 hours under his control leaving just time under the democratic side. Even if the democrats control all the remaining time a republican can still offer an amendment and he/she is guaranteed the 1 hour for the author, the opponent gets the hour and the democrats can yield time off the bill. At the end all time consumed on the amendment is subtracted from the democratic pot of time.

Once all time is used they will vote on the pending amendment and them others can offer amendments that will be voted on during the vote a rama. Technically they are not entitled to debate but they usually get a minute equally divide pro and con for debate prior to the vote in return for reducing the vote time down to 10 min votes.

The vote a rama can go several hours and averages 3 votes per hour.

Buckle up. It could be a long (and bumpy) next couple of days.


Marty Paone

Martin P. Paone is a Senate Procedure expert and serves as a Senior Advisor at Prime Policy Group. Marty rejoined the firm after a two-year hiatus spent working for President Obama as his Deputy Assistant for Legislative Affairs and Senate Liaison. Marty served on Capitol Hill for 32 years, including 13 years as Democratic Secretary.