This vote was on a motion by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to hold an up-or-down vote on several key sections of a bill that funds highways, bridges, mass transit, and other transportation projects.
Congress was in the process of debating federal transportation programs. The programs were set to expire at the end of March 2012, and lawmakers would need to renew them to avoid cutting off federal transportation funding and disrupting transportation infrastructure projects around the nation.
Because the topic is so broad, a number of Senate committees have jurisdiction over federal transportation policy. When constructing a transportation bill, lawmakers must cobble together provisions written by the various committees. Senator Reid’s amendment would have added key sections from the Commerce Committee, Finance Committee, and Banking Committee to the bill.
However, Sen. Reid’s amendment met resistance from some Republicans who argued they were not satisfied with the sections those committees had written. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) objected that the Commerce Committee’s portion of the bill included sections that Republicans could not accept, and did not include anything dealing with railroads.
“I think we are just a little premature today,” Sen. Hutchison said. “I think we need to make the changes that are required, and I think this bill will sail in the future.”
Even though 54 senators voted for Sen. Reid’s motion and only 42 voted against, it was defeated because it was brought up under Senate rules that require 60 votes for passage. Voting “yea” were 52 Democrats and 2 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 42 Republicans. As a result, consideration of key sections of the federal transportation bill was delayed. Senator Reid withdrew his amendment while negotiations over the transportation bill continued.