This was a vote on a motion to table (kill) an amendment that had been offered by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) to legislation making major changes in the national health care system. The amendment had been offered as a procedural tactic and made no significant impact on the bill. It was actually offered as an amendment to another pending amendment to the health care bill the Senate was considering. It was offered to prevent opponents of the bill from offering their own amendment to the pending amendment: Under Senate rules, there is a limit on the number of amendments that can be offered to a pending amendment. By offering this essentially meaningless amendment to a pending amendment, Sen. Reid was trying to reach that limit and block any further Republican amendments.
During this period in late December of 2009, the Senate was spending most of its time in a heated debate over the health care legislation. The Democratic majority, which supported the bill, was making an effort to pass it before the Senate adjourned for the year. The Republican minority, which opposed the legislation, was using a variety of procedural tactics to slow down the consideration of the measure. Offering amendments to the health care bill, and then engaging in extended debate on those amendments, was one of those delaying tactics.
House Deputy Majority Leader Durbin (D-IL) supported the health care legislation and the effort by Sen. Reid to limit the offering of amendments to it. Durbin said “we find ourselves in the early morning hours trying to finish this bill before the Christmas holiday . . . This is to bring to a close a debate which has gone on for more than 3weeks . . . more and more Republican Senators (are) now coming to the floor with ideas and amendments . . . (W)here have you been . . . (N)ow they say they are just brimming with all of these notions and ideas that can improve this bill. They had the chance. In fact, they had more than a chance. They were invited into this process early on.”
Durbin added that “we have to go forward . . . this Christmas week (because) (W)hen this bill is passed, we know from the Congressional Budget Office . . . 30 million Americans who currently don’t have health insurance will have the peace of mind of knowing they have health insurance . . . .” He also noted that the original amendment to which Reid offered his meaningless amendment “has now been before the American public for at least 70 hours on the Internet. The bill itself
has been before the American public now for more than 3 weeks . . . There has been ample opportunity for people to read, dissect, and to be critical of it and
raise questions about it . . . .”
Sen. Hutchison (R-TX) opposed the health care bill and the motion to end debate on the Reid amendment. She argued that the bill “has not seen the light of day for very long. It is a bill that is going to change health care policy in this country forever . . . The reason we are talking about this bill and trying to let people know what is in it is because we hope there is still a chance this bill will not become law. This bill was drafted behind closed doors without Republican input. . . This bill increases taxes by over $1?2 trillion over a 10-year period . . . .”
The cloture motion carried by a vote of 60-39 along straight party lines. All sixty “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. All thirty-nine “nay” votes were cast by the Republicans present. As a result, debate was ended on the amendment, and the Senate was able to move to move toward a final vote on the health care legislation.