This vote was on whether to allow to go forward 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.
Judd Gregg, R-N.H., attempted to defeat the bill with a parliamentary maneuver, arguing that the bill would violate the Senate’s budgeting rules. Ben Cardin, D-Md., then made a motion that the budgetary rules be waived in this instance, which is what this vote was on.
“I believe the first obligation of a government—or one of the obligations, especially of Congress—is to live by its own words and live by its own rules. With great fanfare a couple weeks ago, the Democratic leadership and its membership passed a … piece of legislation which says that when you bring spending legislation to the floor, it should be paid for. There was great breast-beating on the other side of the aisle about how this would discipline the government and make us fiscally responsible,” Gregg said, adding that this bill would violate that rule.
Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., reacted to Gregg’s maneuver by suggesting that it was time to put aside “partisan gridlock.”
“Today we have a real opportunity to show that this new legislative year can break through that with something meaningful to the American people, a jobs bill. I am hopeful that many colleagues on the other side of the aisle will join us. There has been great input from Senator Inhofe and Senator Hatch. These are people who are conservative, have different voting records than I, but they say we have to do something,” Schumer said.
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.
By a vote of 62-34, the motion to waive the rules was adopted. All but one Democrat present voted to waive the rules. All but six Republicans present voted against waiving the rules. The end result is that the rules were waived, the parliamentary objection failed, and the Senate proceeded to a final passage vote on a bill intended to spur job creation.