This was a vote on a motion to invoke cloture and bring the debate to an end on a nearly 400 page amendment to the more than 2,000 page legislation the Senate was considering that made major changes in the national health care system. During this period in late December of 2009, the Senate was spending most of its time in a heated debate over the legislation. The Democratic majority, which supported the bill, was making an effort to pass it 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. Engaging in extended debate on this and other amendments was one of those delaying tactics.
Sen. Durbin, the Senate Democratic Majority Leader favored the legislation, the Reid amendment, and the motion for cloture. His explanation for the size of the amendment was that it was “an effort . . . to perfect a bill (that was more than 2,000 pages long) and address some other provisions that were not included. That effort was under way for a lengthy period of time because the Congressional Budget Office had to look at each suggestion to see whether it had an impact on the cost of the bill or the goal of the bill, which is to make health insurance more affordable.” Durbin also said that, after the numerous additions and deletions made by the amendment, “the basics of this bill remain.”
Durbin then argued that “this health care reform bill, as amended, is the greatest deficit reduction bill in the history of the United States. We have now been told by the Congressional Budget Office this bill will not only reduce our deficit over the next 10 years by over $130 billion, but in the following 10 years, their new calculation is it will reduce the deficit of the United States up to $1.3 trillion. . . It achieves this by . . . (bringing) down the increase in costs in health care.”
Sen. Alexander (R-TN) opposed the amendment and the motion to end debate on it. He charged that Sen. Reid “showed up yesterday with a 400-page amendment . . . written in secret for the last 6 weeks. Of course, none of us on the Republican side knew what was in it . . . This is an amendment . . . which . . .will cost about $2.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the Senate Budget Committee . . . which affects 300 million people; which will raise taxes by about $1 trillion when fully implemented over 10 years; and which will cut Medicare by about $1 trillion when fully implemented over 10 years . . . But the Democratic leader and his colleagues insist that we need to . . . get it passed before Christmas Eve because they want to make sure they pass it before the American people find out what is in it.
The cloture motion carried by a vote of 60-40 along straight party lines. All sixty “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. All forty “nay” votes were cast by Republicans. As a result, debate was ended on the amendment, and the Senate was able to move toward a final vote on the health care legislation.