This vote was on an amendment by John Cornyn, R-Texas, that would have createed a new parliamentary rule against any legislation that increases federal income taxes. In the Senate, these sorts of rules can be used to summarily defeat legislation that falls afoul of them, unless the Senate votes to waive that rule by 60 votes, a large margin.
Cornyn’s amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2010. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Cornyn said the intent of the new rule is to ensure that anything Congress considers that could be considered a tax on small businesses would have to have the proper deliberation before being adopted. This is because typically the Senate spends a longer time on legislation that senators know can only be successful with 60 votes. Cornyn acknowledged that Democrats have some issues with the nature of the amendment and what effects it might have on the Senate’s internal rules, but that he believes they can be worked out before the measure is finally passed.
“I know the chairman has raised this issue of corrosive but not fatal … and I have some answers. We have corresponded with the Parliamentarian, and he has been good to give us some guidance, and I think there is a pathway for us to move forward … and to perhaps modify [later] and yet sustain its viabiliity,” Cornyn said.
Conrad said he is concerned that the amendment could endanger the underlying bill if it were adopted as written. However, that said, Conrad said he plans to vote for the amendment and that other Democrats should as well “if they are so inclined.”
Cornyn said he would work with Conrad to find a way to modify the amendment to address his concerns before the measure is finally passed.
By a vote of 82-16, the amendment was adopted. All but one Republican present voted for the amendment. Of Democrats present, 41 voted for the amendment and 14 voted against it (including most progressive members). The end result is that the Senate adopted an amendment that would create a new parliamentary rule that would make it easier to defeat any legislation that increases federal income taxes.