Top 10 tough votes Democrats had to take during vote-a-rama for massive spending bill

GOP amendments forced votes on issues ranging from border security and tax increases to gender roles.

Updated: August 9, 2022 - 4:41pm

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During a "vote-a-rama" on their $739 billion reconciliation spending bill that has hundreds of billions for climate and health care programs, Democratic senators had to take a series of uncomfortable votes on hot-button issues — particularly tough for those representing swing states.

The bill, which also includes federal funding for 87,000 new IRS agents, passed on a party line vote 51-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. 

GOP senators proposed a series of amendments to the Inflation Reduction Act that forced difficult votes for moderate Democrats on issues ranging from border security and tax hikes to gender roles, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders forced two votes that could alienate the Democrats' progressive base. The tough votes for Democrats included these 10:

1. Energy price increases: South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham proposed an amendment to "strike a tax increase that would result in higher consumer prices for gasoline, heating oil, and other energy sources for Americans earning less than $400,000 per year." It was defeated by Democrats 50-50 with Harris breaking the tie. 

2. Oil and gas leases: Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso's amendment to "require certain additional onshore oil and gas lease sales in certain states" was rejected 50-50. Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo proposed a related amendment to expedite consideration of permits and provide regulatory certainty for infrastructure and energy projects, which was also rejected by Democrats 50-49.

3. IRS audits: Crapo proposed a separate amendment to "prevent the use of additional Internal Revenue Service Funds from being used for audits of taxpayers with taxable incomes below $400,000 in order to protect low- and middle-income earning American taxpayers from an onslaught of audits from an army of new Internal Revenue Service auditors funded by an unprecedented, nearly $80,000,000,000, infusion of new funds." His amendment was rejected 50-50.

4. 87,000 new IRS hires: Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz suggested striking the $80 billion "slush fund for the Internal Revenue Service to prevent the hiring of 87,000 new Internal Revenue Service employees that will surveil and audit the private account information and transaction data of innocent Americans and small businesses." Democrats shot it down 50-50.

5. War on Coal: Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby offered an amendment to "end the president's War on Coal through the approval of coal leases," which was also rejected 50-50.

6. Pregnancy programs limited to females: Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio proposed an amendment to limit federal pregnancy programs to biological females that was defeated by Democrats 50-50.

7. Border barriers: Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan introduced an amendment designed to "replace the funding for the Office of the Chief Readiness Support Officer with a $500,000,000 appropriation for the construction or improvement of primary pedestrian fencing and barriers along the southwest border." Senate Democrats sunk the amendment 50-50.

8. Ban on strategic oil reserve sales to China: Cruz also proposed an amendment that would have prevented the U.S. government from selling oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to China. While the amendment failed to garner the 60 votes needed to pass, moderate Democratic Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) supported the amendment in the 54-46 vote. Each of these senators is locked in a tight reelection race.

9. Medicare coverage for dental, hearing, and vision: Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who caucuses with Senate Democrats, proposed an amendment to "provide coverage for dental and oral health care, hearing care, and vision care under the Medicare program." It was rejected overwhelmingly in a bipartisan vote, 97-3. 

10. Civilian Climate Corps: Sanders also proposed creating a Civilian Climate Corps, which was part of the original multitrillion Build Back Better Act. Every senator other than Sanders voted against it, including Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who has been a vocal supporter of creating a Civilian Climate Corps.

Republicans predicted that the Democrats will pay a political price in the midterm elections for pushing the massive spending package through.

"Democrats will pay the price in November for raising taxes on families during a recession," Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement. 

The Democrat-led House is set to come back into session this week to consider the legislation. House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York said the bill is going to worsen inflation.

"Democrats' radical spending bill will raise taxes and crush hardworking families and small businesses at a time when Americans can least afford it," she said in a statement. "While every American family is already suffering from historic inflation as a direct result of reckless spending by one party Democrat rule in Washington, Democrats are doubling down on their failed agenda to spend billions more and increase inflation."

Richard Grenell, former acting Director of National Intelligence in the Trump administration, said that the votes Democrats took during the vote-a-rama would damage swing state moderates up for reelection, such as Sen. Masto.

"I think when the public gets to see these people, then they will absolutely vote against some of these phonies who pretend to be moderate," he told Just the News. 

He said Masto has been "solidly voting" with Biden's agenda.

"I don't think that she wants to win," he said. "I think she wants to be in Biden's cabinet when she loses. And the only way to be in Biden's cabinet is to be a progressive. There's no room for moderates, and so she realizes she's going to lose."