This vote was on bringing debate to a close on an amendment by Bill Nelson, D-Fla., that would exempt businesses from filing newly-required tax paperwork if they had less than 25 employees. It also would raise the monetary threshold at which businesses would have to file these reports from $600 to $5,000. The amendment was offered to a bill that would create several tax incentives for small businesses, as well as authorizing a small business lending fund.
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.
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.
Nelson’s amendment was filed as a Democratic alternative to an amendment by Mike Johanns, R-Neb., that would have repealed a tax reporting provision put into the health care overhaul law to help raise revenue to pay for the cost of the overhaul; that provision was estimated to raise $17 billion at the time. The provision requires that businesses file tax forms any time they spend more than $600 per year for goods and services purchased from a business. Currently businesses only need to file this form if they purchase $600 per year for goods and services from unincorporated service providers. The idea of the provision was that requiring businesses to disclose these payments would make it less likely for them to hide income from the IRS.
“The Senator from Nebraska wants to eliminate all of the new information reporting rules. That is a salutary result. But how does he propose to do it? He has to come up with a way to pay for it. Where does he get it? He basically goes directly at the health care bill,” Nelson said. “This Senator does not think that is a very good idea, particularly since what the Senator from Nebraska is gutting is the subsidies that allow people to purchase health insurance who presently are uninsured. What the Senator from Nebraska is doing is he is driving a stake into the heart of the health insurance reform bill by taking 2 million people out of that pool, people who are uninsured, who otherwise would be getting health insurance. That is the essence of this; otherwise, the Senator from Nebraska and I agree.”
John Thune, R-S.D., said “the best way for most Americans to get access to health care, because most Americans still get their health care coverage through their employers, the best way to get health care coverage is to get a job. This provision kills jobs,” Thune said. “This is directly targeted at small businesses, the economic engine, the job creators in America today.”
Thune said Johanns’ amendment is superior because Nelson’s amendment does not go far enough in fixing the tax problem created by the health care law.
“What the Senator from Nebraska is trying to do is to correct this by repealing this onerous compliance burden that we are placing on the small businesses of this country. It is not the tax delinquents who get hurt by this, it is the hard-working small businesses. It is the charities. It is the government agencies who have to deal with this burdensome paperwork,” Thune said.
By a vote of 56-42, the motion to bring debate to a close was defeated. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote requires 60 in order to be considered approved. All but three Democrats present voted to bring debate to a close. Every Republican present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that cloture was not achieved, and debate continued on an amendment that would exempt from tax paperwork requirements businesses with less than 25 employees, and raise the level at which these disclosures would have to be made from $600 to $5,000.