This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by John Thune, R-S.D., that would erase the text of a bill that would extend several expired tax provisions and other items, and replace it with a Republican-focused bill. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend several expired tax provisions, unemployment insurance benefits, Medicaid assistance to states, Medicaid doctor payment increases and other items.
When Thune offered his amendment, Max Baucus, D-Mont., attempted to defeat it with a parliamentary maneuver as violating the Senate’s budgetary rules. Thune then asked that the rules be waived in this case, which is what this vote was on.
The Republican alternative essentially would do many of the same things – extend expired tax provisions, unemployment insurance benefits and Medicaid items, for instance – but instead of raising the deficit, would pay for these things by overhauling the way medical malpractice suits operate, freezing federal employees’ salaries, and cutting non-defense spending across the board by 5 percent.
Baucus said Thune’s amendment would “move in the wrong direction” and “would probably cost jobs” instead of helping create them.
“The Thune amendment would reduce aggregate demand in the economy by more than $50 billion. Instead of continuing the good that the Recovery Act has done, the Thune amendment would stop it in its tracks. The Thune amendment would, among other things, cancel unspent and unallocated mandatory spending in the Recovery Act,” Baucus said. “The Thune amendment would put the recovery at risk by curtailing the Recovery Act. It would cut the number of Americans with health insurance and raise premiums. It would nationalize medical malpractice law, putting patients at risk. And it would protect big oil and multinational corporations that ship their jobs overseas.”
Thune said his amendment is “probably the most important thing that we can do for the economy right now.” He said the nation’s debt currently stands at $13 trillion and that Congress must ensure that it is not added to.
“[Americans] want Congress to take steps that will help grow the economy and create jobs. The best way to do that is for the government to get out of the way, so to speak, and incentivize small businesses to do what they do best; that is, create jobs.”
By a vote of 41-57, the motion to waive the rules was rejected. Every Republican present voted for the amendment. All but one Democrat present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the motion to wave the rules failed, the Republican amendment was defeated, and the tax extension and benefits bill went forward without language that would have frozen federal salaries, changed medical malpractice law and cut non-defense spending.