This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “cloture motion”) on an amendment (to a tax bill) by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that would have extended tax cuts only for Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or less. Those tax cuts were scheduled to expire to January 1, 2011, approximately one month after this vote occurred. Baucus’ amendment would also have extended unemployment compensation for laid-off workers who have exhausted their benefits.
A cloture motion is a procedure by which the Senate can vote to end, or to place a time limit on, debate of a bill, and thereby overcome a filibuster. In addition, at least 60 senators must vote in favor of a cloture motion in order for it to pass.
Schumer urged support for his amendment: “Today, we stand at a crossroads. We have two vital issues facing this country. One is an economy that is moving too slowly. The second is a large deficit looming around the corner. How do we solve that problem? The best way to solve that problem, in my judgment, is to give tax breaks to the people who will spend it, the middle class, and to make sure the highest income people who have done very well over the last decade, instead of getting a tax break, make sure that money goes to deficit reduction.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) argued the amendment would harm job growth: “All they [Democrats] are simply doing here is trying to implement a failed policy that hasn't worked in the past and isn't going to work in the future. We have all the science and history and facts to support this. It is counterintuitive to the American people. How many people think the way to create jobs is to increase the cost of doing business in this country? When small businesses create two-thirds of the jobs in our economy, it is absolutely fundamental that you don't increase their cost of doing business. You don't raise taxes if your ultimate goal is to create jobs.”
While a majority of senators (53) voted in favor of the motion ending debate on this amendment, at least 60 senators must vote in favor a cloture motion in order for it to pass. Since 60 senators did not vote in favor of cloture, the motion failed. The vote on this motion was 53-37. Voting “yea” were 53 Democrats. All 32 Republicans present and 5 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected a motion to end debate on an amendment to a tax bill that would have extended income tax cuts for Americans with annual incomes of $1 million or less -- and would have extended unemployment compensation for laid-off workers who had exhausted their benefits.