Joe Manchin and Susan Collins Switch Sides Twice to Hold Senate in 50-50 Stalemate

The Senate split 50-50 on two votes on Thursday night as the Democrats attempt to pass a budget using the reconciliation process. The results have shown how difficult building a majority could be in the divided chamber.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted against two of her party's resolutions while Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted in favor of them during the "vote-a-rama"—a lengthy series of amendments to the budget that can be offered by any senator.

Collins, from Maine, is considered a moderate Republican and Manchin, from West Virginia, is seen as a more conservative Democrat. Both have crossed party lines in the past and their votes could prove more important now the Senate is evenly split.

The Senate voted 50-50 on an amendment from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on "prohibiting the cancellation of contracts for physical barriers on the border."

Manchin voted in favor and Collins against and, as a result of the equally divided vote, the resolution was not adopted.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order halting construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border soon after he entered the White House. The wall was a centerpiece of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

Later, the Senate split 50-50 on an amendment from Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) "to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting infringement on the free exercise of religion."

Collins again voted against the amendment while Manchin broke with the Democrats to vote in favor of it. As a result, the amendment was not adopted.

The evenly divided Senate was expected to create difficulties for Democrats in bringing forward Biden's agenda. On key pieces of legislation and nominations to federal office, Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the deciding vote to break deadlocks.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reached a power-sharing agreement on Thursday following weeks of negotiations.

The so-called organizing resolution handed the chairmanship of committees to the Democrats. However, it will remain a difficult task to put together a majority on controversial policies.

"I am happy to report this morning that the leadership of both parties have finalized the organizing resolution for the Senate," Schumer said.

Democrats gained control of the chamber in January following the surprise victories of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia's Senate runoff elections. The party is using its majority in both the House and the Senate to engage in the budget reconciliation process and pass the president's $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package.

Senator Susan Collins at a Confirmation Hearing
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is considered a moderate Republican. She voted against two of her party's amendments on Thursday. Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images