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What the Heck is a Vote-a-Rama?

by Countable | 10.19.17

What’s the story?

That wacky Senate, with their arcane rules and convoluted procedures. Perhaps the wackiest practice of them all is the ‘vote-a-rama’, which the Senate is scheduled to tee up for Thursday night.

What the heck is a ‘vote-a-rama’?

A ‘vote-a-rama’ is a marathon round of votes on amendments proposed to be attached to a piece of legislation, often budget bills. There’ve been vote-a-ramas held on farm bills, immigration reform bills, tax bills — and on the recent GOP healthcare bill.

The vote process is considered a vote-a-rama if more than 15 amendments are considered back-to-back. The highest number ever voted on is 44, but in some vote-a-ramas over 100 amendments have been introduced.

There’ve been 57 vote-a-ramas since 1977. Fun fact: Star Wars was also released in ‘77. What do you want to bet that every vote-a-rama senators and their aides wish they were in a galaxy far, far away from the Senate Chambers?

Who could blame them? Vote-a-ramas can go on for up to 12-13 hours. No amendment is allowed more than 10 minutes of consideration, with each side only given 30 seconds to present their case before a vote is taken. Aides and staffers are racing to make sure senators even understand what they’re voting on before they have to start all over with the next one.

Senators sometimes use the opportunity to offer amendments on controversial issues in order to force colleagues to go on record publicly, which keeps everyone on their toes.

It’s surprising anyone can stand up after hours of that, much less take a stand on anything.

Another fun fact: debate exists, but many believe the term ‘vote-a-rama’ was first coined by then-Senate Majority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) in 1996. Also under consideration? ‘Vote-a-thon’. Doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Personally, I would have preferred ‘whack-a-mendment’ or ‘what-you-get-for-taking-all-those-recesses’, but that’s not very snappy.

Democrats are expected to limit the number of amendments they introduce in Thursday night’s vote-a-rama to no more than a couple dozen, according to Politico. They’re focusing their attention on forcing recorded votes on tax cuts to the wealthy, tax increases to the middle class, and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in order to pay for budget increases.

What do you think?

What issues do you hope senators vote on Thursday night? And what ideas do you have for what the marathon process should be called? It took them nearly 20 years to coin ‘vote-a-rama'. Maybe it’s time for a twenty-first century update?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia/ Creative Commons)

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(30)
  • R. ben
    10/19/2017
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    Just do your jobs and take less vacations! Not vote really fast and do understand the consequences.

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  • S
    10/19/2017
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    Hey kids! There’s a new, fun, and exciting game out! Be sure to demand that Santa brings it to you this Christmas. It’s Vote-a-Rama! See if you can out maneuver and take more money from your opponents. Win a turn as a Congressmen where you can earn extra prizes! How many charter jet flights can you collect? Watch out you don’t get put into a middle or poor class or that’s the end of the game for you. It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s Vote-a-Rama! Get it today! (Endorsed by the US govt as a way to teach children responsibility. “A good way to learn how to ruin people. The earlier they learn the better. Wish this game was around when my kids were little.” says D. Trump from Washington.)

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  • Robert j.
    10/19/2017
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    More work days — fewer vacations.

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  • Tyler
    10/19/2017
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    Swamp creatures in action.

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  • Pat
    10/19/2017
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    Votearama is a fancy word to say screw the opposite side of the aisle. We will not tolerate any debate or hearings for all of the issues and the arcane rule of 20 hours is insane. History clearly demonstrates that Truckle down economics does not work. Conservatives refuse to acknowledge that this will increase the national debt ceiling. The CBO estimate is clear. You want to increase taxes? Try fixing the infrastructure. It is a fact that the GNP is stronger when the democrats are in power. This bill hurts small businesses and rewards huge corporations. Stop talking about lining insurance companies pockets and talk about removing ability to afford health insurance and health care. You want to stop lining pockets? Start with Big Pharma price gouging and negotiate drug costs in Medicare. Allow reimportation. Another missed opportunity because they own the house and senate. Enough is enough

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  • Hank
    10/20/2017
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    Our Congressional representation is taking care of their number one priority themselves. How often have you seen them in their own constituency speaking with the voters? But they do have your e/mail so that they can solicit your donation. Just try talking to one of them. Good Luck.

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  • Lawrence
    10/19/2017
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    Every bill should be voted up or down based on its merits.

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  • SneakyPete
    10/19/2017
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    Sadly for me it’s a waste of time, to delay passage of legislation, by repetition of information previously given out, to just reenforce either sides political agenda. Often times it develops into nothing more than an opportunity of damming the other side of the political isle. Just my biased opinion.

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  • Patrick
    10/19/2017
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    We need less vacation time and more work days. “Vote-a-ramas” are an example of congress covering up their shoddy work.

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  • Pattimac47
    10/19/2017
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    No... read and understand what you are passing... sounds like trying to find a soulmate by speed dating!

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  • NoHedges
    11/27/2017
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    It will only work until 2018. Because that is when Americans will vote every single party-line button pusher legislator out of office.

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  • Terry
    10/19/2017
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    Probably be voice votes so no Senators can be pinned to a particular vote too. Do nothing Congress is a bunch of weak people.

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  • Maureen
    10/20/2017
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    Note in their wacky votes Rama they will be voting on budget so don’t get too silly or you might vote for something you didn’t want

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  • Tim
    10/20/2017
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    1 bill = 1 vote. No more omnibus b.s. All bills should pass or fail on its own merits.

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  • Nan
    10/20/2017
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    There should be no trivialization of passing legislation. Careful consideration to the full consequences and costs of enacting an amendment needs to be considered. Vote-aromas do none of this.

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  • Sheryl
    10/20/2017
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    If the tax code is too complex and needs to be simplified then WHY aren’t we also simplifying the rules in congress as well? Congress should not conduct business like a game of Yahtzee with a dozen arcane rules to remember. The vote-a-Rama sounds like a childish game that’s not fitting of the US CONGRESS

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  • Sean
    10/21/2017
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    Republicans hold these midnight votaramas to vote on deplorable immoral bills while we sleep. Only criminals need to hide what they do in the dark. Republicans have zero morals.

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  • Ted
    10/20/2017
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    I get the vote a rama thing. Lots of bills to yea or nah to. I just sincerely hope you elected officials read what you are voting for or against and not just getting the interpretation of your assistants. You were elected to represent. Which includes reading and knowing what you are voting for. The reason I say all this; I watched 2 of your colleagues representing other states actually say to a reporter that he they do not read the bills, they get a summarized version from their assistants. That whatever it was they voted on the last vote a rama they did not get all the info but knew were there vote wads going anyway. I even reminded my TV to make sure I heard it right. Read the bills

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  • Patricia
    10/21/2017
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    We really have to stand strong against this. Taxes are important legislation the effects all of us. Not a rush job. It needs thorough vetting in both houses

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  • Harold
    10/21/2017
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    These people Do Not represent the people that sent them to the legislative branch of government. Cheap and underhanded maneuvers seems to have pushed all tried and true methods of compromise to the side, for ploys to win a political victory at all cost. Hey, remember us! We're the people that sent you to represent us, not your selves or the continuation of intransigent partisan battle lines. This is rock bottom!!!

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