This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by Richard Burr, R-N.C., that would have given $250 to certain Social Security recipients (seniors, veterans and the disabled), paid for out of unspent stimulus funds. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend for varying lengths of time, mostly around a year, several programs that would otherwise have expired within a month. These include unemployment benefits, heath insurance subsidies, small business loans and flood insurance.
After Burr offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., made a motion to kill it, saying it violated the Senate’s budget rules. Burr then made a motion to waive the rules in this instance, which is what this vote was on.
Burr said he is offering the amendment to pay for another amendment that was to later be offered by Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. (see vote 36). Burr said Sanders’ amendment would grant the $250 benefit, but would not pay for it.
“The amendment is almost identical to Senator Sanders’ amendment which provides the emergency benefit; it just pays for it. I don’t think there is anything unreasonable on that. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cost of the Sanders amendment to be at $12.7 billion. I understand the Sanders amendment was modified, so that might be slightly higher. Millions of seniors and veterans are struggling on fixed incomes in this troubled economy. This amendment also provides them the ability to get through those tough times but it also gives them the comfort of looking at their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren and saying: I am not a burden on you because this was paid for,” Burr said.
Baucus said the Senate had already voted three times that day not to use unspent stimulus money to pay for various items on the floor, and that senators should do the same with this one.
“In all three cases, we turned away those efforts to cut back Recovery Act/stimulus funds. I think we should do the same here,” Baucus said.
The motion to waive the rules and allow Burr’s amendment to go forward was defeated 38-59. Of Republicans present, 29 voted for the motion and 9 voted against it. Of Democrats present, 9 voted for the motion and 48 voted against it (including the most progressive senators). The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed and Burr’s amendment to pay for a $250 benefit to certain Social Security recipients by using unspent stimulus funds failed.