This vote was on whether to suspend the Senate’s rules that govern when certain types of motions can be made to allow Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to offer a motion to send a bill that would extend unemployment insurance back to the Finance Committee.
As part of his motion, Coburn wanted to stipulate that the bill would be rewritten by the committee so that it would not increase the deficit; its spending would be paid for, Coburn suggested, by reducing other government spending and selling off surplus federal properties. The bill in question would extend federal unemployment benefits until Nov. 30, applied retroactively to June 2.
Coburn and other Republicans have insisted that they support extending unemployment insurance, particularly in this time of economic stress, but that it must not increase the deficit.
“The people in Oklahoma who are not getting unemployment checks today I care about just as much as the people who don’t have a job who aren’t getting one. But there is another group of people whom I am pressed to serve in Oklahoma as well; that is, their children. The assumption that this body can’t make the hard choices to eliminate things that are much less important, much more wasteful, an absolute waste of Federal dollars and eliminate those things to pay for unemployment insurance is out of the bounds of reality,” Coburn said.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., suggested that Coburn needs to focus on “what is before us right now.”
“It is not about the unemployed versus our children. Our long-term unemployed have children, and these children are seeing their dads and moms with their heads in their hands, they see tears, and they don’t know why. I have letters from my constituents. They don’t know what to tell their kids. They are working so very hard,” Boxer said. “Hearing the Senator from Oklahoma say we are being partisan makes no sense at all. I sang the praises of my Republican friends who have joined with us in making sure we can extend unemployment benefits today. I thank God for them, frankly. So this isn’t about partisanship. It is about pulling together as a country and recognizing that we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
By a vote of 49-49, the Senate voted not to allow Coburn to offer his motion to rewrite the bill. Though the vote was tied, this particular type of vote requires a two-thirds majority of senators present and voting in order to be considered passed (in this case, 66). Every Republican present voted to allow Coburn’s motion. Of Democrats present, nine voted to allow his motion and 47 voted against (including the most progressive senators). The end result is that Coburn’s motion to pay for extending unemployment insurance benefits by cutting other government spending or selling off surplus federal property was defeated.