This was a vote on a motion to end debate (cloture motion) on legislation requiring federal agencies to set aside a portion of their research and development budgets for contracts with small businesses.
The Senate had been debating the bill for over a month, and Democrats—who held a majority—were eager to shut off debate and vote on the bill. Republicans opposed ending debate, contending they had not been given an opportunity to vote on a sufficient number of amendments. Republicans had offered well over one hundred amendments, many of which were unrelated to the underlying bill—including amendments to suspend the implementation of a major health care reform law that was signed by President Obama in 2010 and established near universal health care coverage in the U.S.
Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urged senators to vote to shut off debate on the bill: “One of the things we wanted to do was to make sure there was a process for allowing amendments to bills. We have had the small business jobs bill on the calendar for weeks. I believe this is the fifth week this bill has been around. We have had votes on a lot of amendments. But each time we think we can see the way to closure, my friends on the other side of the aisle come forward with other amendments, making it impossible for us to move forward on this bill that creates jobs….We spent days working on an agreement to have votes on amendments to the small business bill to get us closer to passage. Included in this agreement was a Cornyn amendment having absolutely nothing--no relevance--nothing being germane to this bill. We had one from Senator Hutchison--same thing--dealing with health care. It has nothing to do with this legislation that is before the Senate.”
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) opposed ending debate on the bill: “I rise today regrettably…to announce that I will be opposing cloture on the pending legislation regarding small business. I have reached this decision after much deliberation, because I support the underlying legislation….But regrettably there has been a disturbing trend in this body over the past several years of disregarding the minority rights and flat out disallowing votes on our amendments….we have voted on 11 amendments out of 137 amendments filed prior to the Easter recess, which hardly represents an open amendment process….We are more than ready to move forward with votes on amendments, then onward to final passage. That is how the process works in the Senate.”
The vote on this cloture motion (to end debate) was 52-44. Since cloture motions require 60 votes for passage, the motion failed. All 52 Democrats present voted “yea.” All 44 Republicans present voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected a motion to end debate on legislation requiring federal agencies to set aside a portion of their research and development budgets for contracts with small businesses. Having failed to end debate on the bill, Reid pulled the legislation from the Senate floor—effectively ending consideration of the measure. He could, however, conceivably bring the bill up again at a later date.