This vote was on an attempt to bring debate on a bill to a close (known as a “cloture motion” in the Senate).
In this case the Senate had been debating a contentious bill that would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the sale, promotion and manufacturing of tobacco products. The bill would require new, more graphic labels warning consumers about the health impacts of tobacco products. It also would create new standards for tobacco products traditionally marketed as having a lower health risk (such as “light” cigarettes). Additionally, the bill would enable the FDA to regulate the amount of nicotine contained in tobacco products, but would stop short of allowing the FDA to ban or eliminate nicotine completely. In order to help pay for all these measures, the bill would create new fees on tobacco products.
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 politicians. Technically this cloture vote was on a substitute amendment to modify the underlying bill with the text of a bipartisan compromise on the issue.
The measure was largely bipartisan and dissent mostly broke along regional lines, with supporters of the bill beating back amendments from senators that represent tobacco-producing states. One of those amendments, by Richard Burr, R-N.C., failed on a separate vote (see vote 205). Others sought to attach amendments on unrelated issues, such as prescription drugs and economic stimulus spending.
Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it is time to give the FDA new tools to help blunt the health impacts of smoking, particularly on children, who tobacco marketers target with their advertisements in the hopes of creating lifelong smokers.
Reid said the bipartisan bill “does a lot of good. It helps keep American children and their families healthy. It keeps tobacco companies honest about the dangers of using their poisonous products by strengthening the existing warning labels. It will make it harder for them to sell cigarettes, and even smokeless tobacco, to children. It will make it harder for tobacco companies to lure our children in the first place.”
Reid said the bill will become law, that it’s only a matter of time.
“I wish to be clear about one thing. Nobody is trying to ban the use of tobacco products. But we are giving the proper authority--the Food and Drug Administration--the tools it needs to help those who smoke and protect those around them,” Reid said.
By a vote of 61-30, the Senate adopted the motion. All but one Democrat present voted for the motion. Of Republicans present, seven voted for the motion and 29 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to invoke cloture carried, bringing debate on a compromise amendment to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products to a close so the Senate could proceed to a vote on final passage.