This vote was on whether to waive a procedural objection raised against an amendment offered by John Thune, R-S.D. The amendment was to a bill that is intended to help stimulate the flagging U.S. economy with a $900 billion cash infusion.
Dissatisfied with the Democrats' underlying stimulus bill, Republicans offered several amendments that lowered the total amount of money proposed to be spent overall and relied more on large blocs of tax breaks. This was one of those amendments.
The amendment would have deleted the text of the economic stimulus bill and replaced it with an across-the-board tax rebate for anyone who filed tax returns in 2007 with an adjusted gross income of less than $250,000. The rebate would mean $5,143 for single filers and $10,286 for those filing jointly.
Thune said he offered his amendment because he was “very uncomfortable” with the idea of spending almost $1 trillion, particularly because the underlying bill would spend it in a way that he does not think is wise.
“If we are going to commit to spending $936 billion, what my amendment essentially would do is to say that the $936 billion ought to be divided evenly among people who file income tax returns in this country,” Thune said. “Consumers and taxpayers, not government bureaucrats, would determine how to spend this money. Consumers could decide to make a downpayment on a new home, purchase a new car, get ahead of day-to-day bills, or save and invest for the future. I suggest this is a far more efficient way of stimulating the economy relative to improving fish barriers or designing polar ice breakers or purchasing supercomputers for climate research.”
Max Baucus, D-Mont., raised what is known as a "point of order" against the amendment. A "point of order" is a procedural motion senators may bring up when they feel a bill, amendment or other motion violates certain rules set out by Congress to govern itself. Unless senators vote to waive those rules – which usually takes 60 votes, a large margin in the Senate -- the bill, amendment or motion in question can be killed by the point of order. Baucus' point of order charged that Thune’s amendment violated the rule that prohibits legislation that would increase the deficit. Thune then made a motion that the rule be waived in this case, which is what this vote was on.
Baucus said he is “reminded of the great Baltimore Sun journalist H.L. Menken who said for every complicated problem there is a simple solution—and it is usually wrong.”
Baucus added that tax cuts are tempting politically because it puts money directly into consumers’ pockets, but said that infrastructure spending, such as the type the economic stimulus bill would make, ends up creating vastly more jobs and ultimately helping more people earn a living. He also said that Thune’s amendment would limit relief to those who had filed a tax return, leaving out nearly 8 million Americans who did not earn enough money to file.
By a vote of 35-61, the motion to waive the rules was rejected. Every Democrat present voted against the motion. All but four Republicans present voted for the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed and Thune’s amendment, which would have replaced the economic stimulus bill with a massive tax rebate for some Americans, was killed.