This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “cloture motion”) on the motion to bring up (known as a “motion to proceed”) legislation that would provide $7 billion for disaster relief for states that were affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, and would also reimpose sanctions on Myanmar. Those sanctions had expired in July, 2011. (This vote took place on September 12, 2011.) The Senate had already voted on this exact motion the previous day, but the measure failed by a vote of 53-33. (A 60-vote majority is required for passage of a cloture motion.) 14 senators—including five Democrats who supported the disaster relief and Myanmar sanctions bill—missed the vote. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), however, had vowed to hold a second vote on ending debate on the motion to bring up the bill.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) argued: “The people of New York did not say, when there were terrible tornados in Joplin [, Missouri]: Our tax dollars should not go to Joplin. And I hope that the people in the rest of the country, represented by so many here on both sides of the aisle, will not say we are not going to step to the plate. America has always stood for disaster relief--always--because we are one nation. We all have known that when God-given disasters, way beyond the powers of mankind, come, no single community can take care of it themselves, and that is why the federal government has traditionally stepped in and regarded it as an emergency and we have stepped in….What is going on? They [Republicans] don't block bridges and money for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, to help rehabilitate those communities, and they are blocking this, for help in Missouri and Louisiana and New York and Vermont and the Missouri River Valley up through the Dakotas, the State of Missouri? What is going on here?”
While no Republicans spoke during debate on this motion, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) had argued during previous debate: “I strongly oppose adding another emergency debt spending bill where we have not carefully examined every penny of it to make sure it is all necessary and appropriate. No one has seen those numbers and the analysis that would justify it. I come from a state that was hammered with the worst series of tornadoes we have ever suffered in Alabama. I have been to those communities and towns and seen those families who have lost all they had, who have lost loved ones and have injured family members. I know we are going to need to have emergency spending for those programs. We have fires in Texas and we also have flooding. We know that. We have certain money set aside for emergencies already. How much more do we need to spend? I do not know yet. I wish to have some very careful expert analysis done before we announce another $7 billion.”
The Senate agreed to the motion to end debate on the motion to bring up the disaster relief and Myanmar sanctions bill by a vote of 61-38. All 53 Democrats and 8 Republicans voted “yea.” 38 Republicans voted “nay.” (Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who had voted against the motion to end debate the previous day, supported the measure this time after receiving assurances from Reid that the cost of the $7 billion disaster relief package would be offset by spending cuts in future legislation.) As a result, the Senate ended debate and proceeded to a final vote on the motion to bring up legislation that would provide $7 billion for disaster relief for states that were affected by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene, and would also reimpose sanctions on Myanmar.