This vote was on an attempt to bring debate on a bill to a close (known as a “cloture motion” in the Senate).
In this case the Senate had been debating a contentious bill that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the sale, promotion and manufacturing of tobacco products. The bill would require new, more graphic labels warning consumers about the health impacts of tobacco products. It also would create new standards for tobacco products traditionally marketed as having a lower health risk (such as “light” cigarettes). Additionally, the bill would enable the FDA to regulate the amount of nicotine contained in tobacco products, but would stop short of allowing the FDA to ban or eliminate nicotine completely. In order to help pay for all these measures, the bill would create new fees on tobacco products. The Senate had previously voted to bring debate to a close on a substitute amendment that contained the text of a bipartisan compromise (see vote 204). This vote was on bringing debate to a close on the bill itself, as modified by the compromise amendment.
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.
“The need to regulate tobacco products can no longer be ignored. Used as intended by the companies that manufacture and market them, cigarettes will kill one out of every three smokers. Yet the Federal agency most responsible for protecting the public health is currently powerless to deal with the enormous risks of tobacco use. Public health experts overwhelmingly believe that passage of H.R. 1256 is the most important action Congress can take to protect children from this deadly addiction. Without this strong congressional action, smoking will continue at its current rate, and more than 6 million of today’s children will ultimately die from tobacco-induced disease,” said Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., one of the main sponsors of the bill before he fell ill.
The measure was largely bipartisan and dissent mostly broke along regional lines, with supporters of the bill beating back amendments from senators that represent tobacco-producing states. One of those amendments, by Richard Burr, R-N.C., failed on a separate vote (see vote 205). Others sought to attach amendments on unrelated issues, such as prescription drugs and economic stimulus spending.
By a vote of 67-30, the motion was agreed to. All but one Democrat present voted for the motion. Of Republicans present, 11 voted for the motion and 29 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to invoke cloture carried and debate was brought to a close on a bill that would allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products.