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The US Senate spent the past weekend debating and voting on the Inflation Reduction Act. This spreadsheet lists nearly 300 amendments that were introduced during this time.

How were they able to seriously consider all these amendments? If they worked around the clock without sleeping, there's less than 10 minutes available per amendment for debate and voting.

Were they given advance notice of the amendments that would be offered, so they could avoid protracted debate and just go straight to a vote on many of them?

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They were able to handle so many amendments because they did work around the clock without sleeping (much), and because they did only have 10 minutes for debate and voting.

What recently happened is colloquially know as a vote-a-rama, the exact details of which depend on various laws plus the rules each congressional session sets for themselves. Essentially it's a time for any senator to introduce amendments to a bill, and can last as long as the senators have relevant amendments to introduce.

The bill, H.R.5376, was a budget reconciliation bill. An overview for the process of passing such a bill can be found here, and the relevant vote-a-rama part can be found on page 11:

Once a motion to proceed is agreed to, the provisions of the Budget Act place specific time limits on debate of a reconciliation bill. Section 310(e)(2) limits total debate time on the measure-including all amendments, motions, or appeals—to 20 hours.

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Even after time has expired, Senators may continue to offer amendments and make other motions or appeals, but without further debate. This period is often referred to as a "vote-a-rama." Although no further debate time is available, the Senate has typically agreed by unanimous consent to consider amendments under accelerated voting procedures, allowing a nominal amount of time to identify and explain an amendment and a 10-minute limit for vote time.

However, do note that in the spreadsheet you linked only a few dozen of the amendments were 'considered', i.e. they're the only ones that were actually voted on. A more official list of amendments can be found on Congress's page for the bill here, which says that 293 amendments were 'submitted' but only 27 received a roll call and were voted on (though I'm not sure that page is fully updated yet, since other Senate pages say there were 39 votes).

I haven't found a good explanation on how submitted amendments get introduced for a roll call vote in a vote-a-rama, however it probably depends on approval from the Senate majority leader and senators not objecting to unanimous consent when a senator proposes that an amendment receives a vote.

As for how so many were handled, chances are that the ones that received roll call votes were already discussed and debated before this (and the text written by various aides and staff), and the purpose of the rest were for senators to make political statements or to gauge support for a particular issue.

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  • Thanks. I heard about Vote-a-rama, but thought it was just a media term for lots of voting.
    – Barmar
    Aug 10, 2022 at 0:09

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