This vote was on a motion to put an end to the debate over the bill that funds the nation’s highways, bridges, mass transit, and other transportation projects. Passage of the motion would have paved the way for a final, up-or-down vote on the bill, while failure would delay the final vote.
Federal funding for transportation projects around the country was set to be cut off at the end of the month if Congress did not pass the transportation bill in time. Concerned that this would lead to massive layoffs as construction came to a halt, Democrats argued the legislation should move forward quickly.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called for a vote on whether to end the debate and move to a final, up-or-down vote on the bill. He argued that the bill had been put together in a bipartisan process, and noted that the Senate had already considered dozens of amendments – including some Republican amendments that had nothing to do with transportation issues.
“Senate Republican leaders are taking a page out of the book of the carnival magician. They have been saying since February 9: Look over here! Look over here!” Sen. Reid said. “No one should be fooled by what is going on here… On the first day of April, it will be April Fools’ Day for a lot of people in America because we will lose almost 800,000 jobs.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected, arguing that the Senate would not jeopardize the bill by taking time to consider more amendments.
“This is a bill that is not going to be stopped. It has broad bipartisan support,” Sen. McConnell said.
Even though 52 senators voted for Sen. Reid’s motion to move to a final, up-or-down vote on the transportation bill and only 44 voted against it, it was defeated because it was brought up under rules that require support from 60 senators for passage. Voting “yea” were 50 Democrats, including a majority of progressives, and 2 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 43 Republicans and 1 Democrat. As a result, a final vote on the federal transportation bill was delayed.