This vote was on whether to open debate on a bill that would authorize $10 million annually to help protect significant battlefields and sites related to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Though the bill's text is related to historic preservation, it is intended to become the vehicle for which to attach a package of provisions that would expand wilderness areas and national parks.
Because the public lands bill is contentious, Republicans had held up allowing the bill to be brought to the floor for debate. Typically bills are brought to the floor through a procedural motion called a “motion to proceed,” which is usually approved by voice vote as a routine matter. However, if a senator wants to hold up consideration, all he has to do is remove his consent – which was the case with this bill. Republicans had threatened to hold up its consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which, in essence, is a vote on bringing debate on a bill or amendment to a close.
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 is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of politicians.
Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said the Senate had already passed a similar lands bill but that it was never taken up by the House.
"In an effort to facilitate consideration of this package of bills in the other body, it is my hope that we will be able to attach the omnibus lands package to another bill that has already passed the House of Representatives and send it back where, hopefully, it can be quickly approved," Bingaman said. "As the first step of this process this afternoon, the Senate will vote on whether to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 146, which is the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act. If cloture is invoked on the motion to proceed to that bill, and once we are on that bill, it is my intention to offer a substitute amendment that will essentially substitute the text of S. 22 as passed by the Senate."
No one spoke against the bill, however Republicans – particularly those from Western states, where large swaths of the land is owned by the federal government – oppose enlarging the amount of land the federal government owns or has under protective measures, generally standing instead on the side of private property rights.
By a vote of 73-21, the motion was agreed to. Every Democrat present voted for the motion. Of Republicans present, 16 voted for the motion and 21 voted against it. The end result is that the motion carried, debate was brought to a close and the Senate proceeded to debate the battlefields bill.