Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What is cloture?

Today, we have reached the 2000th post on this blog. In celebration of this feat I thought I would tackle explaining cloture.

The Senate defines cloture as "The only procedure by which the Senate can vote to place a time limit on consideration of a bill or other matter, and thereby overcome a filibuster. Under the cloture rule (Rule XXII), the Senate may limit consideration of a pending matter to 30 additional hours, but only by vote of three-fifths of the full Senate, normally 60 votes." (Glossary, Cloture entry). Now does this make sense? Well, how about we follow this time line:
1) Bill comes out of committee to floor of Senate
2) Filibuster is begun. A filibuster (in case you haven't seen "Mr Smith Goes to Washington") is a delay on a bill's passage. This delay can be done in a number of ways, through procedures or just lots of talking.
3) Filibusters can continue on and on, until the party(ies) involved stop or cloture is evoked. Cloture requires 3/5ths of the Senate (which unless they have a vacancy is 60 votes) and doesn't stop debate, just gives a limit on how much longer debates can be held.

So, what happened this week? Well, the "
Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010" had a few amendments proposed that would have changed how one provision of the Health Care bill passed earlier in the year dealt with reporting income. There were two amendments to this, one from the Republican side (Johanns Amdt. No. 4596) and one from the Democratic side (Nelson (FL) Amdt. No. 4595). These were both proposed and filibustered and attempts on cloture to force a vote happened on September 14th, but neither passed (See roll call on Nelson and Johanns). Therefore, debate continued, but today another attempt at cloture was successful (Roll Call) and the bill passed (Roll Call) without these two amendments. You can see the final text of the bill on Thomas.

Want to learn more about these amendments? Listen to "Senate Fails to Cut Tax Provision" from NPR. Need more Congressional resources? Check out the library's guide.

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