This vote was on bringing debate to a close on a bill that would give states $16.1 billion in extended Medicaid assistance and $10 billion for education funding, primarily to help states stave off teacher layoffs. This spending would be paid for by spending cuts in other areas and new forms of revenue – for instance, the $10 billion for education funding would primarily come from curtailing tax shelters for multinational corporations which have shell offices overseas.
Republicans had threatened to hold up the bill’s consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which is a vote on bringing debate on a bill or amendment to a close, which is what this vote was on. 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 is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of senators.
Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the recession has laid waste to state budgets and that states need help in order to avoid drastic cuts to services. He noted that in his home state of Illinois, the state’s fiscal 2011 budget is projected to have a $13 billion deficit; the governor has proposed cutting public education funds to compensate.
“It has been projected that, in Illinois, come this new school year, we will have as many as 17,000 fewer teachers. Our State is not alone,” Durbin said. “States across the country, looking to balance their budgets, are faced with these same hard choices. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the stimulus package President Obama brought forward when he was elected, we acted to save schools, and our investment worked. The State fiscal stabilization fund helped save or create more than 300,000 education jobs across the country. We bought a year, in the hopes that this recession would have turned around. Well, it is moving in the right direction, but we are still suffering from many aspects of it.”
Republicans cast the bill as an election-year present to teachers unions.
“When you go to the essence of what this bill is about, it is to pay off education unions. That is what this is about. Let’s not be coy about what is happening around here. The education unions were the single biggest interest group represented at the Democratic National Convention. I think 26 percent of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention were teachers, members of teachers unions. They probably were not teachers; they probably were administrators,” Gregg said. “Now we get a bill on the floor of the Senate to basically put the States in a position where they will have to maintain the teachers union status relative to employees and actually add to it at the expense of the employers in those States and the people who go to work in those States, at the expense of the companies that are deemed ‘multinationals.’”
By a vote of 61-38, the motion to bring debate to a close carried. Every Democrat present voted to bring debate to a close. All but two Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that the Senate voted to bring debate to a close on a bill that would provide billions of dollars worth of additional Medicaid and education funding for states to help blunt the impact of the recession.