This vote occurred on an attempt to bring debate on a measure to a close (known as a “cloture motion” in the Senate). If the Senate votes to “invoke cloture” – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation, amendment or motion in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious legislation where the leadership of the majority party (in this case the Democrats) is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of politicians.
The bill in question would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through fiscal 2011. The bill had been held up for more than a week as Republicans and Democrats argued over both procedure and substance. Republicans wanted Democrats to remove provisions unrelated to aviation from the bill, which Democrats largely refused to do. At the same time, Republicans were angry that Democrats had restricted their ability to offer amendments. Democrats countered that they took that approach because Republicans refused to come forward with their amendments beforehand, instead insisting on surprising them.
“I repeat, we had all last week devoted to the aviation bill. We had one vote over the course of 5 days. That vote was a procedural vote—not the kind of thing that raises you out of your seat with excitement. Other than that, we did not vote on one aviation issue for the entire week,” said a frustrated John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the bill’s main sponsor.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans have called repeatedly for Democrats to remove provisions not related to aviation, mostly involving highway and rail spending, but with no success.
“We do not oppose moving forward with an FAA modernization bill,” McConnell said. “[We have] called repeatedly on the majority bill manager to … remove these extraneous controversial provisions and move forward with a clean FAA bill. So we find ourselves in a stalemate. I think this is unfortunate and unnecessary.”
By a vote of 49-42, motion to bring debate to a close was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular kind of motion requires a 60-vote majority for passage. All but three Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close (Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts of Kansas, which has a large general aviation industry, and Olympia Snowe of Maine). All but one Democrat present voted to bring debate to a close (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who voted no so that he could call the measure up for a revote at a later time.) The end result is that cloture was not invoked and debate on the bill to reauthorize the FAA continued.