This vote was on bringing debate to a close on a bill that would extend eligibility for federal unemployment insurance until Nov. 30, 2010. Because Congress allowed unemployment insurance to lapse briefly, the bill also would apply this eligibility retroactively to June 2.
This was the latest of several attempts by Democrats to pass a bill that extended unemployment insurance. In the past, Democrats had paired unemployment insurance with other provisions extending various tax benefits and other items intended to stimulate the economy. However none of those prior versions drew enough support from either Republicans or Democrats, many of whom were growing increasingly worried about the rising deficit.
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, 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.
Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Republicans are to blame for taking so long to enact a bill extending unemployment insurance and called it “shameful.”
“Because of the obstructionism of those on the other side of the aisle, more than 2 and a half million unemployed Americans have seen their benefits terminated in recent weeks—49 days ago, to be exact. They are among the nearly 6.8 million Americans who have been out of work for more than half a year. That is the highest number of long-term unemployed we have had since we started keeping track in 1948,” Harkin said.
No one spoke against the bill, but by and large Republicans did not oppose extending unemployment insurance benefits. Rather, many fiscal conservatives opposed the bill because it would raise the deficit. Several Republicans made attempts to avoid raising the deficit by slashing spending or using other funds to pay for the extension of benefits, all of which were rejected. Some Republicans also had opposed the bill previously because earlier versions of the bill contained tax breaks that would have further increased the deficit (however, those items were absent from this version of the bill).
By a vote of 60-40, the Senate voted to bring debate to a close. All but one Democrat 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 the Senate brought debate to a close on a bill that would extend federal unemployment insurance benefits, and moved toward final passage of the bill.