This vote was on bringing debate to a close on a bill that would extend unemployment benefits as well as expired tax provisions and cancel a 21-percent payment cut to Medicare reimbursement rates that was otherwise scheduled to take effect.
Because the bill would increase the deficit in a time when the national debt is already large, the Democratic leadership had trouble getting enough support to pass the bill. As a result, Democrats scaled back the bill several times and presented these new versions for consideration (all unsuccessfully). This vote was on bringing debate to a close on Democrats’ latest attempt to pass a slimmed-down bill that would increase the deficit less than earlier versions.
Republicans had threatened to hold up the bill’s consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which is a vote on bringing debate on a bill or amendment to a close, which is what this vote was on.
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 senators.
Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Democrats had done all they reasonably could to satisfy Republican demands and that Republicans are abusing the Senate’s rules in continuing to hold up a bill that contains vital safety net programs for the neediest Americans.
“It is a commonsense bill to help our economy get back on track. When we originally brought this bill to the floor, every single Republican said no to supporting our communities. Instead of walking away on this side, instead of furthering their goal of partisan gridlock, we extended a hand to our minority colleagues and worked with them. We trimmed sections they wanted trimmed. We reduced the support we thought was important for our families, but we reduced it in order to get their support and brought it back to the floor again. But once again, they said no to American families. So we went back and a third time trimmed it back even further. We did exactly what they asked us to do. Now I am saying to our Republican colleagues, it is time to stop saying no,” Murray said.
Olympia Snowe, R-Me., had a different take, saying that she felt the need to “set the record straight.”
“It didn’t have to be this way. I want to be very clear about this. I laid out a blueprint of how we could proceed to a consensus solution to passing a responsible tax extenders package. I worked diligently. I answered every call. I went to every meeting for the last few weeks since this became an issue, in good faith, to attempt to extend the unemployment benefits that I think people rightfully deserve, as well as to help with the reimbursement for doctors that, by the way, we have known has been a problem for more than a year,” Snowe said. “If we are serious about creating jobs, we absolutely could identify a pathway to extend the expiring tax provisions in this legislation which are important to America’s job generators, without simultaneously and inexplicably raising taxes on our small businesses—the very entities we look to in order to lead us out of this recession—in the name of increased spending and a more expansive tax extenders package. This approach simply makes no sense and lays bare the stark disconnect between Washington and the entire rest of the country.”
By a vote of 57-41, the motion to bring debate to a close was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote required 60 in order to be considered passed. The end result is that debate on a bill to extend several expired programs, unemployment insurance and other items, was not brought to a close, for the third time since the bill was brought to the floor. This means that Democrats could not bring the bill to a vote on final passage of the bill. As a result, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the bill would be pulled from the floor and the Senate would move on to other business.