This vote was on whether to waive a procedural objection raised against an amendment to a bill. The amendment was offered 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, offered by John Thune, R-S.D., would have erased the text of the stimulus bill and replaced it with a host of provisions that focus on taxes, worth about $444 billion in tax relief. These include a provision to reduce tax rates, extend relief for the Alternative minimum Tax through 2010, allocate $124 billion for job creation, and extend and expand the homebuyer credit.
"With my amendment we get more with less, more job creation at less cost. What this amendment would do is substitute the underlying bill with an amendment that consists primarily of tax relief for families and small businesses," Thune said. He added that it is estimated that it would create "twice as many jobs for half the cost" of the Democrats' stimulus bill.
Baucus said Thune's amendment does provide more – "more for less—more tax breaks for upper income Americans, less tax breaks, in fact, no tax breaks for low-income Americans; 49 million Americans will get no tax benefit under this amendment, and 49 million Americans do get some tax benefits from the underlying bill. It eliminates the rest of the substitute—nothing for energy, nothing for education and the other parts of the bill. I urge rejection of the amendment."
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 requires all spending not to exceed the budgetary allocations approved earlier in the year, which it did. Thune then made a motion that the rule be waived in this case, which is what this vote was on.
The motion was rejected by a vote of 37-60. Every Democrat present voted against the motion. All but three Republicans present voted for the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules and allow Thune's amendment to replace the text of the stimulus bill with tax relief for what Democrats said would benefit mostly affluent Americans was defeated. Subsequently the point of order against the amendment was upheld and the amendment died as a result.