This was a vote on a motion to end debate (known as a “cloture motion”) on an amendment (to a tax bill) by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) that would have extended tax cuts only for Americans with annual incomes of $200,000 or less. Those tax cuts were scheduled to expire on January 1, 2011, approximately one month after this vote occurred. Baucus’ amendment would also have extended unemployment compensation for laid-off workers who have exhausted their benefits.
A cloture motion is a procedure by which the Senate can vote to end, or to place a time limit on, debate of a bill, and thereby overcome a filibuster. In addition, at least 60 senators must vote in favor of a cloture motion in order for it to pass.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) urged support for Baucus’ amendment: “I fully support the amendment being offered by Senator Baucus of Montana…an amendment which says: we will have tax cuts, but we will do it sparingly because we need to, not only to help middle-class families but to help this economy. The Baucus proposal would cost us, over 10 years, $1.5 trillion. It is a huge sum of money. But it is a sum of money we should invest at this moment because of the reports we received yesterday that the unemployment rate in America continues to rise, that our economy is fragile, that this recession is serious, and we need to move to breathe life into this economy as quickly as possible for workers and small businesses all across the United States.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) urged members to oppose the amendment, arguing that high income earners should not face a tax increase: “… The economic theory we are debating about raising taxes to create jobs is the wrong one. It has been proven wrong historically. It is counterintuitive to anybody who knows anything about economics, which is why 60 percent of all prominent economists in this country say…the best way to create jobs, to grow and expand the economy, is to extend these tax provisions that are going to expire on January 1.”
While a majority of senators (53) voted in favor of the motion ending debate on this amendment, at least 60 senators must vote in favor a cloture motion in order for it to pass. Since 60 senators did not vote in favor of cloture, the motion failed. The vote on this motion was 53-36. Voting “yea” were 53 Democrats. All 31 Republicans present and 5 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected a motion to end debate on an amendment that would have extended income tax cuts for Americans with annual incomes of $200,000 or less -- and extended unemployment compensation for laid-off workers who had exhausted their benefits.