This was a vote on a motion to waive the Senate’s budget rules and pass an amendment by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that would have repealed a provision of a major health care law enacted in 2010 that required small businesses to file a tax form (a 1099 form) for all individuals who had received $600 or more from a business in exchange for property or merchandise. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. (The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has regulatory authority over all civil aviation in the United States.)
The 1099 provision that this amendment would have repealed was included in the landmark 2010 health care reform law to help raise tax revenue to pay for an expansion of insurance coverage.) The provision was widely viewed by members of both parties as overly burdensome for small businesses.
Stabenow’s amendment also required the Office of Management and Budget to use up to $44 billion in “unobligated” federal funds to offset the lost tax revenue which would have resulted from repealing the 1099 provision. (“Unobligated” funds refers to money that has been appropriated by the federal government, but has not yet been spent).
Stabenow urged support for the amendment: “…We all know that small business is the engine of the economy. This amendment will address a burdensome regulation we have all talked about. We need to repeal an unnecessary, burdensome provision in the law that would require 40 million businesses in America, most of them small businesses, to file 2,000 percent more paperwork with the IRS. We have a chance to do something about that with this amendment.”
A number of Democrats opposed the amendment, arguing that allowing the Office of Management and Budget—which is part of the executive branch of the federal government—to cut funding from federal programs amounted to a relinquishing of congressional authority to the president. Sen. Carl Levin contended the amendment “would undermine Congress's role in the constitutional scheme of separation of powers among the branches of government and it would abdicate Congress's responsibility to decide on the spending of taxpayer dollars.…The power of the purse should not be handed to the president, any president.”
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), speaking for the opponents of the amendment, argued that it violated the Senate’s budget rules, and raised a point of order against it. Stabenow then made a motion to waive those budget rules and pass her amendment.
The Senate waived the its budget rules (thus passing Stabenow’s amendment) by a vote of 81-17. (At least 60 votes are required to waive the Senate’s budget rules.) All 47 Republicans present and 34 Democrats voted “yea.” 17 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate agreed to an amendment repealing a provision of major health care reform law enacted in 2010 that required small businesses to file a tax form (a 1099 form) for all individuals who had received $600 or more from a business in exchange for property or merchandise.