This vote was on bringing debate to a close on a bill that would extend unemployment insurance benefits and other items.
Democrats struggled to clear the bill amid Republican and Democratic dissatisfaction with the growing deficit. Democrats repeatedly scaled back the bill but were still unsuccessful in getting it passed. This vote was on the latest version of the bill, which would have extended federal unemployment insurance benefits through November 30 and have made it retroactive to June 2, before the law expired. It also would have allowed homebuyers to qualify for a tax credit by extending the closing deadline for a home purchase, from June 30 to Sept. 30.
Republicans had threatened to hold up the bill’s consideration indefinitely with a filibuster, causing Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., to file what is known as a “cloture motion,” which, in essence, is a vote on bringing debate on a bill or amendment to a close, which is what this vote was on. 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 senators. This vote was one in several failed Democratic attempts to gain cloture and move to final passage of the bill.
Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Democrats have negotiated in good faith with Republicans to try to address their concerns, but that extending unemployment insurance is an emergency that should not be delayed.
“To come to the floor and say Democrats are big spenders and we can’t pay for anything and we don’t know how to run the government, we have put a great package together. But there is one thing that is not paid for, and that is unemployment because it is an emergency. That is what this debate is about, whether they are going to vote for it. If they don’t want to vote for it, it is completely at their feet that people in America today, who have no benefits, will not get them for the Fourth of July. They will not get them as we celebrate the birthday of our country. If they are not going to get them, it will be because the Republican Party decided that we, as a Congress, are going to have to find a way to pay for unemployment benefits, when they never paid for even 1 year of any war they helped lead us into when their party was in charge,” Landrieu said.
Republicans opposed the bill because the portion that extended unemployment benefits would have increased the deficit. Some suggested using portions of the 2009 economic stimulus law that have yet to be spent to pay for that benefit instead of increasing the deficit.
John Ensign, R-Nev., said extending unemployment benefits “should be a top priority” but that it needs to be done in the appropriate way (namely, in a way that does not increase the deficit).
“I know we could pay to extend these benefits now by cutting spending in other areas and redirecting some stimulus funds which have had little impact on the economy in my State and across the country. Despite what some of my other colleagues may say here on the floor, there is no debate on extending the benefits for those who have fallen victim to our down turned economy. The debate on this issue actually lies with the fact that those on the other side of the aisle want to take the easy way out, and they want to avoid paying for this important legislation because it is tough to make cuts. Instead, we are going to add another $30 billion on to our record-breaking national debt,” Ensign said.
By a vote of 58-38, the motion to bring debate to a close on the bill was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote required 60 in order to be considered passed. All but two Democrats present voted to bring debate to a close. All but two Republicans present voted against bringing debate to a close. The end result is that Democrats again failed to close off debate on a bill extending federal unemployment insurance and other items, and debate on the measure continued.