The Senate has already taken several politically freighted votes, including a move by Democrats to force a vote on the Paul Ryan House budget, which was rejected by a 59-40 vote Thursday night, with five Republicans joining every Democratic senator in opposition.
Republicans countered with a move by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., putting Democrats on record in opposition to balancing the budget by the end of the decade. It failed on a near party-line vote.
Additional votes on Friday could feature forays into off-topics like supersized soft drinks, domestic drone strikes, handguns and abortion — in addition to the more traditional subjects of taxes, spending and debt.
Such tallies give lawmakers the chance to test support for their ideas in the modern Senate, where there are far fewer opportunities to offer amendments and obtain votes. Such votes are nonbinding. Seventeen Democrats joined Republicans to endorse the Keystone XL pipeline that is to carry oil from Canada to Texas oil refineries. And after a bipartisan 75-24 test vote, the Senate endorsed an amendment by Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. — backed by the powerful retailer lobby — that would allow states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases made out of state.
It all concerned a largely symbolic measure known as a budget resolution, not binding legislation that could be sent to the president to become law. The Senate budget measure and the starkly different version passed by the House on Thursday seek to set parameters for follow-up legislation on taxes and spending.
The dueling House and Senate budget plans are anchored on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum in Washington. No Democrats voted for the House budget, and not a single Republican will vote for the Senate plan, written by new Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. The GOP plan caters to tea party forces, while Murray was forced to reach out to liberals, rather than revive proposals such as increasing out-of-pocket Medicare costs for better off beneficiaries that were discussed when she co-chaired a failed 2011 deficit "supercommittee."