This vote was on whether to waive a procedural objection against an amendment by Jim DeMint, R-S.C. DeMint’s amendment would create a new procedural hurdle (known as a “point of order”) against any legislation that increases gasoline prices. In effect, DeMint’s amendment would allow a bill, amendment or motion to be stricken with a procedural maneuver if it raised gasoline prices.
Generally speaking, a "point of order" is a procedural motion senators may bring up when they feel a bill, amendment or other motion violates certain rules set out by Congress to govern itself. Unless senators vote to waive those rules – which usually takes 60 votes, a large margin in the Senate -- the bill, amendment or motion in question can be killed by the point of order. A point of order was itself raised against DeMint’s amendment as violating the rule requiring that amendments be related (or “germane”) to the bills to which they are being offered. DeMint then made a motion that the rule be waived in this case.
“With high gas prices becoming an increasingly difficult burden for all American families, it is very important that we consider all the legislation we pass here to make sure it doesn’t further increase the prices of gasoline,” DeMint said.
DeMint’s amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2009. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said simply that the subject of DeMint’s amendment lies with the Energy Committee, not the Budget Committee, and so it should be defeated.
By a vote of 39-59, DeMint’s request to waive the rules with respect to his amendment was rejected. All but two Democrats present voted against waiving the rules (Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska). Of Republicans present, 37 voted to waive the rules and 11 voted against waiving the rules. The end result is that an amendment that would have made it against the Senate’s rules to pass an amendment or bill that raised gasoline prices was defeated.