This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Judd Gregg, R-N.H., that would require all spending bills to include the current federal debt level, the debt level per capita, and the bill’s effects on the national debt. It also would require federal Web sites to include a national debt clock. The amendment was offered to a bill that would impose new restrictions on credit card companies’ lending practices.
Gregg offered his amendment, and then Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., made a motion to kill Gregg’s amendment because it violates the Senate’s rule that requires that amendments be related to the bills they are offered to. Gregg then called a vote to waive that rule for his amendment, which is what this vote was on.
“This amendment is appropriate to this bill because, after all, we are talking about credit in this bill, and the credit of the United States is obviously a severe issue for all of us, and we need to address it,” Gregg said. “This amendment simply gives the American people a better opportunity to learn what is happening to their Government and how much debt is being run up on them and their children. It is an issue of transparency and openness in our Government. The debt is the threat, and it is one of those occasional, brilliant ideas that come along every so often, so everybody should vote for it.”
Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said the amendment has no place on this particular bill, and additionally “raises some very serious, legitimate issues.”
“First of all, it is going to be costly to do this: every agency to report what the national debt is. The number is absolutely worthless by the time you publish it because the national debt rises, of course, every nanosecond,” Dodd said. “The level of public cynicism about this issue is getting almost insurmountable. It seems to me we need to be far more realistic. There are other costs, as well, in addition to the debt that people care about. Why not have a tuition cost clock? Why not have a health care cost clock? These matters go up all the time as well.”
By a vote of 59-35, the motion was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote required 60 in order to be considered passed. Every Republican present voted for the motion. Of Democrats present, 19 voted for the motion and 33 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed, Gregg’s amendment was defeated, and the bill went forward without language that would have required all spending bills and federal Web sites to include information about the federal debt level.