This vote occurred on an attempt to bring debate on a motion to a close (known as a “cloture motion” in the Senate). 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 of the majority party (in this case the Democrats) is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of politicians.
The cloture motion would have had the effect of allowing the Senate to begin debating a bill that would establish some organized labor rights for state and local public safety officials, such as police officers and firefighters. In order to take up a bill on the Senate floor, all senators must unanimously agree to a “motion to proceed” to the piece of legislation. Republicans had objected repeatedly to allowing the motion to proceed to go forward, which would have allowed the bill to be debated on the floor. Thus, Democrats filed a motion to bring the stalling tactics to a close and have a vote on whether or not to bring the bill up on the floor.
The bill itself would essentially allow police and firefighters to collectively bargain in states that do not currently offer these types of labor protections.
“Mr. President, this is the legislation to provide a voice for our public safety officers,” said Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. “They are the individuals who are really protecting our homeland. They are the ones who should have a voice in decisions affecting the security of our country. This legislation provides them with that, to ensure greater safety and security for all Americans.”
The bill is bipartisan and enjoys the support of many Republicans, but the White House had leveled a veto threat against the measure, arguing that it could hamper the ability to respond to threats and hazards. Some Republicans sided with the White House, necessitating the cloture vote.
Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., argued that the bill had not been properly vetted through its committee of jurisdiction and urged the Senate to wait on voting on the bill. He also said it would trump states’ rights.
“This is an opportunity for you to impose the will of the Federal Government on your State. I don’t think you really want to do that. We need to have a little bit more than a minute to discuss that,” Enzi said.
By a vote of 69-29, the Senate agreed to bring debate to a close on the motion to proceed to the bill itself. Every Democrat present voted to bring debate to a close. Of Republicans present, 18 voted to bring debate to a close and 29 voted against it. The end result is that debate was ended and the Senate proceeded to debate the merits of a bill that would establish organized labor rights for state and local public safety officials.