Here's a look at some of the more notable votes:
Paid Sick Leave
Democrats have made ensuring that workers have paid sick leave a priority in recent months, yet it was assumed this issue would stall under Republicans who oppose subjecting businesses to new regulation. Not necessarily. An amendment offered by Senator Patty Murray of Washington state earned the votes of 14 GOP senators, giving it enough to overcome a filibuster and make it into the final budget resolution. Does this mean the Senate will pass it into law anytime soon? No. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposed the amendment and could prevent it from coming up in the form of legislation, and even if it did, senators wouldn't be held to their non-binding budget vote. But the strong support shown on Thursday indicated an unexpected consensus in the Senate, giving the push for mandatory paid sick leave new momentum.
The Senate didn't hold a direct vote on whether gay marriage should be allowed, but Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii asked his colleagues whether legally-married, same-sex spouses should have "equal access to the Social Security and veterans benefits they have earned and receive equal treatment under the law pursuant to the Constitution of the United States." Fifty-seven senators voted that they should, including all 46 Democrats and 11 Republicans. With the Supreme Court set to rule on same-sex marriage later this year, federal recognition and benefits for gay spouses could become a fait accompli. But the clear majority support in a Republican-controlled Senate—unthinkable during the last GOP majority a decade ago—is yet another indication of how rapidly public opinion has shifted on the issue in recent years.
Nowhere was the Senate more divided than on the issue of Social Security. A group of Democrats including Elizabeth Warren, the liberal favorite, and Joe Manchin, a West Virginia moderate, put forward an amendment calling for an expansion of Social Security, so long as it didn't add to the deficit. Every Republican and two Democrats opposed it, but the near-unanimous backing from Democrats on an issue popular with the progressive movement was significant. After years in which the White House and many congressional Democrats were entertaining the idea of trimming entitlement programs as part of a fiscal grand bargain, the party is now rallying around a proposal that would expand benefits.
One of the few unanimous votes of the night centered on Iran sanctions, which is a delicate topic given the Obama administration's opposition to separate legislation that, it argues, would undermine its negotiations for a nuclear agreement. The budget amendment from Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois didn't address the wisdom of a deal with Iran, but it called for reimposing sanctions if the Iranians violated any agreement that is reached. An amendment from freshman Tom Cotton voicing support for Israel also drew no opposition.