11 Hours, 50 Minutes: Vote on Bernie Sanders' Minimum Wage Amendment Breaks Senate Record

The procedural vote to include Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' $15-an-hour minimum wage amendment in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill ultimately failed—but not before breaking the Senate record for longest ever vote.

The record-breaking Senate vote came as many in the upper chamber were already prepared for a long night, with several offices stocking Red Bull energy drinks and snacks in advance. But debate and procedural stoppages occurred for nearly 12 hours, or 11 hours and 50 minutes, before enough moderate Democrats decided to oppose the minimum wage hike. A call between President Joe Biden and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin was part of the lengthy process, which ended with only 42 senators siding with Sanders. Sanders needed 60 votes to waive the budget rules, which would have allowed him to use reconciliation to push his minimum wage hike through the Senate. Now, the $15 wage provision is officially excluded from the coronavirus package.

The previous record for the longest ever Senate vote occurred in June 2019, over an amendment from New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall that sought to prevent U.S. attacks on Iran without congressional authorization. That vote was held open for a total of 10 hours and 8 minutes.

As Roll Call noted Saturday, official data is not kept on vote durations in the Senate. So votes which were hundreds of years old could have surpassed Sanders' record.

Seven Democrats and one Independent joined with Republicans in blocking Sanders' effort: Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Chris Coons of Delaware, Tom Carper of Delaware and Angus King, a Maine Independent who caucuses with Democrats.

The Senate version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill did not include the minimum wage increase due to an earlier ruling the independent Senate parliamentarian.

Several deliberate stoppages brought a halt to the Senate voting, including Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson demanding that clerks read the 628-page piece of legislation in its entirety. A group of clerks rotated this duty every half-hour as they began reading the entire bill out loud for the chamber. This process took 10 hours and 43 minutes and ended just after 2 a.m. Friday.

"This reconciliation bill does not include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour," Sanders said in a speech prior to the vote. "In my view, it should have. I think the parliamentarian was dead wrong, but more importantly, it is an absurd process that we allow an unelected staffer—somebody who works for the Senate not elected by anybody—to make a decision as to whether 30 million Americans get a pay raise or not."

Ultimately, the motion to waive the Budget Act with respect to the Sanders Amendment to H.R. 1319, the American Rescue Plan Act, will stand as the longest Senate vote in history.

Newsweek reached out to Sanders' office for additional remarks Saturday morning.

Bernie Sanders in Senate
The vote on Senator Bernie Sanders minimum wage amendment to the $1.9T COVID relief package took nearly 12 hours, a new Senate record. Here Sanders, as chairman of the Budget Committee, speaks during a U.S. Senate Budget Committee hearing regarding wages at large corporations on Capitol Hill on February 25. Stefani Reynolds/Getty