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Senate sets new mark for longest recorded vote thanks to vote-a-rama 2021

Katherine Tully-McManus, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

But senators were prepared, expecting a vote-a-rama that stacks sometimes hundreds of votes on amendments one after the other often stretching overnight.

“Vote-a-rama is upon us. Stay hydrated and keep good cheer,” Graham said at a press conference.

South Carolina Republican Tim Scott’s staff had a case of sugar-free Red Bull at the ready, along with snacks. Kansas Republican Roger Marshall posted a video showing off a box of Astro Doughnuts in the Senate GOP cloakroom, comparing the coveted local D.C. treats to the underlying bill, which he accused of having “lots of pork” and “lots of sugar sweeteners for the Democrats.”

But the vote on the budget point of order was not the first agonizing delay in action on the $1.9 trillion relief bill.

On Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., brought consideration of the bill to a halt by requiring Senate clerks to read aloud the 628-page piece of legislation in its entirety.

Usually, the Senate waives the full reading of bills or amendments. But Johnson objected to the usually uneventful waiving.

A team of clerks traded off every 20 to 30 minutes reading the bill aloud. It took 10 hours and 43 minutes, ending a little after 2 a.m. Friday.

The vote on the Sanders minimum wage amendment surpasses the previous modern record holder from June 2019, on a vote to limit debate on an amendment by New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall that would bar U.S. attacks on Iran without congressional authorization. That vote was held open for a total of 10 hours and 8 minutes.


That vote opened at 5:02 a.m., to allow senators with early-morning flights to vote and then leave town for the Independence Day recess. It was held open to accommodate the Democratic senators who were in Miami for presidential primary debates. They flew into Washington to cast their votes.

Official statistics aren’t kept on vote durations in the Senate, but CQ Roll Call archives show that on Dec. 21, 2018, a vote on a motion to proceed to a House-passed funding bill to prevent a government shutdown lasted 5 hours and 18 minutes. The vote ended with Vice President Mike Pence casting his 13th tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

That vote began at 12:31 p.m. and gaveled to a close at 5:49 p.m.

Before that, a February 2009 vote on that year’s stimulus act conference report was held open for about 5 hours and 15 minutes to accommodate senators with two different scheduling conflicts.

In that case, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn. — a Modern Orthodox Jew — voted before the Sabbath began at sundown. But Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown was out of town attending his mother’s memorial service and had to fly back to Washington.

The Senate Historical Office notes that any discussion of the longest votes should be applied to modern Senate practice, since vote time limitation had been less stringent in the past. The Historical Office noted a 1955 vote that ran for several hours because Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey had a delayed flight. Lyndon B. Johnson, the majority leader at the time, kept the vote open until Humphrey’s return.

Of course, Humphrey would later serve as vice president under Johnson.

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