Faced with the prospect of tough votes on climate change, minimum wage and women’s reproductive rights, the GOP-controlled state Senate has made it harder to approve amendments to its proposed budget.

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OLYMPIA — Faced with potentially tough votes on climate change, minimum wage and reproductive rights, the GOP-controlled state Senate approved a politically advantageous rule change Thursday that makes it harder to adopt floor amendments to its proposed 2015-17 budget.

The chamber’s 25 Republican senators — along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who caucuses with the GOP — voted to require a 60 percent majority for budget amendments.

The new rule allowed breathing room for some Republican senators to vote in favor of amendments related to popular issues, while still allowing those amendments to fail.

Known as Rule 53, it means 30 are needed to approve an amendment, not 25.

Democrats had lined up budget amendments Thursday that, among other things, would fund a climate-change study, raise the minimum wage and provide paid sick leave for some employees contracted by the state, plus increase state funding for women’s contraceptives.

They were issues, Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said during floor debate, that lawmakers should be able to discuss.

But arguing for the higher vote threshold, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said budgets are about fiscal matters, not social policy.

Sen. Michael Baumgartner, R-Spokane, went further, calling the Democratic amendments “political.”

The rule also applies to the workaday budget amendments often proposed as legislative tweaks.

“Emergency food assistance, that’s not ‘gotcha,’ ” said Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, referring to one.

The simple-majority vote for amendments was adopted in 2011. Sheldon, who authored that rule, said Thursday this legislative session was too partisan for such a practice.

“This decision by my Democratic colleagues to play a more adversarial role this year is unfortunate and regrettable,” Sheldon said in a statement. “I wish it hadn’t happened.”

When Lt. Gov. Brad Owen — who this year refused to enforce a GOP rule change requiring a two-thirds majority to pass a tax increase — upheld Thursday’s new rule on amendments, he acknowledged its purpose.

“Certainly the 60 percent to amend allows members to vote in support of an amendment knowing that it would not be adopted,” said Owen, who is also president of the Senate.

By Thursday evening, a Democratic effort to suspend the new rule for an anti-discrimination amendment had failed.

With a voice vote on the amendment too close to discern, Owen called for senators to stand at their desks while he counted.

“The amendment fails to get 30 votes,” Owen concluded. “The amendment fails.”