This vote was on a bill intended to spur job creation as well as take care of several laws that would otherwise expire at the end of the month. The bill would provide payroll tax relief for businesses that hire new employees and extend deductions for small businesses’ investments. It also would extend for a year the authorization for the Department of Transportation to spend money out of the Highway Trust Fund, the fund where gas tax revenue is deposited, and which fuels most federal spending on surface transportation priorities. It also would permanently extend the authorization for a program known as Build America Bonds, which allows states to let large-scale infrastructure bonds, backed by a federal subsidy.
Democrats had been ready to move a much larger “jobs” bill, including more actual dollar spending on various programs, similar to what Congress enacted in the last stimulus bill. But after Scott Brown was elected and Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate, which had theoretically allowed them to overcome filibusters, they were forced to scale back their jobs agenda from $85 billion worth of spending to about $13 billion.
“This is a piece of legislation that will put people back to work and create the incentives for companies—whether it is highway contractors or small- and medium-sized businesses—to hire those employees. Why is that important? Because we have probably somewhere around 25 million people today who wake up without a job. The hard-core unemployment, as known in the statistics, is about 17 million people. But 20 million to 26 million people are effectively unemployed in this country. They woke up this morning wanting a job and looking for a job but cannot find a job,” said Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.
Republicans were upset that the bill did not include extensions for a raft of expiring tax breaks, and also complained that the bill was not put together in a bipartisan manner.
“The Senate is about to engage in a cloture vote on the Senate Democratic leadership's third stimulus bill. What I find surprising is that what we are about to vote on indisputably and absolutely belongs to the majority leader. That is to say we are not going to vote on a bipartisan package,” said Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. “I was under the impression that the Senate Democratic leadership was genuine in its desire to work on a bipartisan basis, but clearly I was mistaken. Although the Senate Democratic leader was highly involved in the development of a bipartisan bill, he arbitrarily decided to replace it with a bill he hopes to jam through the Senate.”
By a vote of 62-30, the Senate agreed to bring debate to a close. All but one Democrat present voted to bring debate to a close. All but five Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that debate was brought to a close on a bill intended to spur job creation, and the Senate proceeded to a vote on final passage, after defeating a parliamentary maneuver (see votes 24 and 25).