This was a vote on a motion to invoke cloture and bring the debate to an end on legislation making major changes in the U.S. national health care system. The Senate devoted most of its December, 2009 session to a heated debate over the legislation. The Democratic majority, which supported the measure, was making an effort to pass it before the Senate adjourned for the year. The Republican minority, which opposed the legislation, was using a variety of procedural tactics to slow down the consideration of the measure. Included among those tactics was engaging in extended debate (filibustering) the legislation. A filibuster can only be forced to end with a favorable cloture vote.
The views of senators on the cloture motion reflected their views on whether the Senate was moving the health care bill too quickly, and also reflected their views on the substance of the legislation. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Durbin (D-IL) was among those leading the support for the legislation. He argued that the bill “is the greatest deficit reduction bill in the history of the United States. We have now been told by the Congressional Budget Office this bill will not only reduce our deficit over the next 10 years by over $130 billion, but in the following 10 years, their new calculation is it will reduce the deficit of the United States up to $1.3 trillion. . . It achieves this by . . . (bringing) down the increase in costs in health care.”
Durbin noted that debate on the legislation had gone on for more than three weeks, giving senators and all other interested parties adequate time to review it and make a judgment about its merits. Durbin also said “we have to go forward . . . this Christmas week (because) (W)hen this bill is passed, we know from the Congressional Budget Office . . . 30 million Americans who currently don’t have health insurance will have the peace of mind of knowing they have health insurance . . . .”
Sen. Harkin (D-IA), another supporter of the bill, said it sends an “important message to Americans . . . that your insurance company can no longer discriminate against you for a pre-existing condition or based on your gender; if you're a small-business owner, you will have more choice and competition in the marketplace, and if you're a senior, you will (have) the prescription drug coverage you need.” Harkin also claimed that it would reduce health care costs and provide “an historic investment in prevention and wellness . . . .”
Sen. Grassley (R-IA) said he opposed the bill because, if implemented, "taxes are going to go up . . . premiums are going to go up . . . (and) inflation in health care is not going to go down." Sen. Alexander (R-TN) another opponent argued that it was actually just “an expansion of the current system” of which the Democrats were so critical.
Alexander also argued that the reason for the Democrats’ “rush . . . is that (they) do not want to explain to 40 million seniors how you can cut $1 trillion out of Medicare . . . and spend it on a new program without reducing Medicare services . . . .” He also said that the Democrats “do not want the American people to understand why the $578 billion in new taxes (in the bill) . . . are going to begin to be imposed . . . (and) passed on to the consumers and, as a result, (insurance) premiums will go up.”
The cloture motion carried by a vote of 60-39 along straight party lines. All sixty “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. All thirty-nine “nay” votes were cast by the Republicans present. As a result, the Senate ended voted to end debate on the health care legislation, and moved to a vote on its final passage.