Senate Has A Habit Of Working Through The Night To Pass Massive Spending Bills

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Arjun Singh Contributor
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The Senate has rarely remained in session overnight but has frequently done so to pass large spending bills during the Biden administration.

On Tuesday at 6:37 a.m. EST, the Senate passed the National Security Act of 2024, a bill that would appropriate $95 billion to fund military aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan for their respective conflicts to be used to deter Russia, Hamas and China — following an all night session where Republican opponents of the bill delivered sequential speeches to frustrate its passage. Such a situation has occurred four previous times during the Biden administration, with each instance involving a large-scale spending package opposed by Republicans, according to the Senate Historical Office. (RELATED: Senate Passes Ukraine Aid Bill After Republicans Pull All-Nighter Delaying Passage)

During the 117th Congress, the Senate remained in session for 27 hours between Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022, and Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022, in order to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, a large domestic spending bill backed by President Joe Biden which is estimated to cost $1 trillion over ten years, according to a study by The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Over that period, Republican senators filed dozens of amendments to strip the bill of key provisions, all of which narrowly failed in a body with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, leading to 39 roll call votes in total. The final passage of the bill, at 3:04 p.m. EST on Sunday, was on a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting a tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill.

A similar situation occurred in March 2021, when the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion spending bill to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate remained in session for 28 hours and 15 minutes — from 9:00 a.m. EST on Friday, March 5, to 1:05 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 6 — and held 37 votes on the bill, mostly to reject amendments offered by Republican senators in opposition.

The bill was ultimately passed by a vote of 50 years to 49 nays, with one Republican senator, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, not voting. The other two all-night sessions, known as “vote-a-ramas,” were in 2021 over votes on budget resolutions for that year, with nearly 900 amendments being filed by Republicans to oppose Biden administration priorities.

The use of procedural tactics to thwart legislation is a longstanding practice in the Senate. Excepting a few matters, the Senate is generally unable to pass partisan legislation without invoking “cloture,” a measure to limit debate on a bill to 18 hours that requires at least 60 votes — with senators often “filibustering” with long speeches in response to deny such consent.

By contrast, the House of Representatives circumvents these procedural delays by passing amendments to House Rules, with a simple majority, that allow the passage of specific bills with a waiver of points of order and other objections. In the 118th Congress, however, this process has also faced issues, with a minority faction of House Republicans sometimes voting to block the passage of rules in protest against large spending legislation.

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