This was a vote on a procedural motion by Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) that the Senate adjourn at 6:45 PM on December 17 and reconvene at 12:01 PM on December 18.
During this period in late December of 2009, the Senate was spending most of its time in a heated debate over major health care legislation. The Democratic majority, which supported the legislation, was making an effort to pass the health care legislation before the Senate adjourned for the year. The Republican minority, which opposed the legislation, was using a variety of procedural tactics to slow down the consideration of the measure.
The reason Sen. Reid wanted the adjournment was that a Senate rule required that a vote on a cloture motion ending debate on a bill could be held no sooner than one “legislative day” after it was filed. The cloture vote on a defense funding bill had been filed on December 17. Therefore, the actual cloture vote could not occur until the December 18 “legislative day”. Reid wanted a cloture vote on the defense bill to occur as soon as possible. Obtaining cloture on that bill would enable the Senate to return to consideration of the health care bill. Under Senate procedures, the December 17 “legislative day” would have continued into the December 18 calendar day, unless the Senate formally adjourned at some point during the December 17 calendar day.
The consideration of the health care legislation was scheduled to be put off temporarily to allow the Senate to consider the 2010 funding for the Department of Defense. However, the Republican minority wanted to extend the debate on the defense funding bill as another procedural tactic to slow down all Senate legislative business and prevent a final vote on the health care bill before the end of the year. Defeating the Reid motion, to have the Senate adjourn on the December 17 legislative day and reconvening just after midnight on a new December 18 legislative day, would have caused a further delay in Senate proceedings.
Sen. Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Deputy Majority Leader, supported the effort by Sen. Reid. Referring to the 2010 defense funding bill, which Republican opposition to the Reid motion would effectively delay, Durbin said: “There are very few measures the Senate would consider any more important . . . This (defense) bill . . . is critically important to our nation’s (security) . . . .”
Sen. Hutchison (R-TX) opposed the motion to have the Senate adjourn. She first said “we are going to eventually vote on the Department of Defense appropriations bill. And it may pass tonight and cloture may be invoked. If it is not, it will be in 30 hours. So I think (that) bill . . . is not what is driving, actually, the timing
of the vote . . . what is driving it is health care, and . . . I think it is very important that we have the opportunity to talk about the health care bill . . . that will be the next piece of legislation that is considered (after debate is concluded on the defense appropriations bill) . . . because it is so important . . . .”
The adjournment motion carried 59-38 along straight party lines. All fifty-nine “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. All thirty-eight “nay’ votes were cast by Republicans. As a result, the Senate adjourned on December 17 and reconvened at 12:01 on December 18 for a cloture vote and to continue debating the health care legislation.