This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by John Thune, R-S.D., that would have used unspent money from the 2009 stimulus law to pay for the programs in a bill intended to extend expiring programs. Specifically the bill would extend for 30 days COBRA health insurance premium assistance, unemployment benefits, a law that governs certain kinds of network satellite TV broadcasts, transportation funding and small business lending. Without the extension these programs all were set to expire at the end of the month in which the vote took place.
After Thune offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., attempted to kill the amendment with a parliamentary maneuver, saying the amendment violated the Senate’s budget rules. Thune then asked that the rule be waived in this case, which is what this vote was on.
Thune said that so far about 38 percent of the stimulus money remained unspent and that unspent stimulus money isn’t creating jobs. He said his amendment places a particular emphasis on funding small business initiatives inside the underlying bill.
“A year ago when this stimulus bill passed, less than 1 percent of the money was directed toward small businesses. We can fix that today with this amendment by directing these tax incentives, using unspent, unobligated stimulus money to do it. It is all paid for. It is all offset. It does not pass debt to future generations. It does not add to the deficit. It is all paid for. It puts the money where it should have been put in the first place and directs it in a way that will be adding to job creation in this country,” Thune said.
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said in fact Thune’s amendment would have the effect of removing stimulus money that has already been promised to various projects, but simply has yet to be sent out the door.
“This amendment cloaks itself in the guise of fiscal responsibility, but nothing could be further from the truth. The amendment would rescind funding from the American Recovery Act—the so-called stimulus bill—to pay for the cost of program increases for small businesses. We can all agree that we should do more to support small business, but it is nonsensical to rescind funding from the Recovery Act, which is also creating jobs. I understand all too well that some on the other side of the aisle have argued that the stimulus bill was a mistake, but the facts are proving just the opposite,” Inouye said.
By a vote of 38-61, the motion to waive the rules and allow the amendment was defeated. All but three Republicans present voted to waive the rules. All but one Democrat present voted against waiving the rules. The end result is that the rules were not waived, the amendment to pay for the bill with unspent stimulus money was defeated, and debate on a bill to extend expiring programs, including many to benefit the unemployed, continued.