Thursday, May 11, 2006

Senate Live - May 11, 2006

As health week winds to a whimper of a close ...


Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that on Thursday, May 11, immediately after the time for the two leaders, the Senate begin consideration of the conference report to accompany H.R. 4297, the Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; provided further that 8 hours remain out of the statutory time limit and that it be equally divided. I further ask consent that following the vote on the adoption of the conference report, and notwithstanding rule XXII, there be 60 minutes of debate, equally divided, between the chairman and ranking member of the HELP Committee or their designees prior to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the modified substitute to S. 1955, the small business health plans bill, with no intervening action or debate, and the live quorum waived.

Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, may I inquire of the majority leader, at this point, are we closing down debate on this bill?

Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, through the Chair, on the small business reform bill, we will have 1 hour prior to the cloture vote. And during the day tomorrow, I expect people will be coming to the floor talking, as well, on small business health plans.

Mr. DURBIN. If I may ask through the Chair to the majority leader, as I understand the procedural position we are in, earlier today the majority leader filled the tree, as we say, to preclude any further amendments. And now, as I understand it, the majority leader has filed a cloture motion, which basically means we are going to bring this to a close without further amendments, without further debate, one up-or- down vote on cloture?

Mr. FRIST. That is correct. Someone could offer an amendment tomorrow prior to the cloture vote, if they so desire.

S.Amdt.3888 is the manager's amendment, which represents the proposed bipartisan base contents for the bill. Most of the debate today will be on H.R.4297 - Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act, not on the small business health insurance bill. It looks to be a long day, with 8 hours of debate then a vote on the tax relief bill, followed by an hour of debate and a vote on the cloture motion on the small business health insurance bill.

For the process-minded reader, the rule prescribing 10 hours for debate before voting is contained in 2 USC 636, section (c)(2) in particular. Later subsections define time limits for debating individual amendments, as well as rules for disposition in the event the conference report is defeated.

Next week will be immigration week, with the Senate to take up S.2611 - Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. This is Senator Specter's Committee version. Senator Frist described the makeup of the Senate conferees as 14/12 (GOP/DEM), with 7/5 being from the Judiciary Committee, with the remainder to be selected by the respective party leaders.

Lots of action on S.1955 at 4:15 PM, Enzi makes a UC request that after the cloture vote, S.2510 - the Durbin/Lincoln Substitute be given a vote (as an amendment), then following 2 hours of debate, S.1955 would be voted. Durbin is inclined to object to the UC request, and fishes for a reason, and eventually OBJECTS.

Durbin's grounds are failure to take up: stem cell; extending Medicare deadline (Santorum notes this has been debated and voted in the Senate several times); and reimportation. With regard to stem cell, Frist has indicated that a stem cell bill will come up sometime this session. Santorum also notes that the reimportation issue has been raised, debated and voted on several times in the past years. Santorum asks if the Senate has ever brought up small business health care - and the answer is NO. And here is Durbin objecting to moving forward with debate and vote on the Durbin-Lincoln amendment. Santorum very clearly lays out the posturing.

Durbin defends his objection, with reasonable particularity - and in the process illustrates how dysfunctional the Senate has been. Not that this exchange doesn't illustrate it on its own.

My guess is cloture will fail on S.1955, the DEMs are dug in. And in the process, the DEMs have chosen to avoid a vote on the Durbin-Lincoln amendment. Durbin is off into smarmy criticism, bringing up the $100 gasoline rebate proposed by Frist. Whole lotta' smoke going on.

Roll Call vote on H.R.4297, PASSED 54 - 44.
GOP NAY votes were cast by: Chaffee, Snowe, and Voinovich.
DEM AYE votes were cast by: Nelson (FL), Nelson (NB), and Pryor.

After this, one hour of debate on S.1955, followed by a vote to invoke cloture on that bill.

Cloture vote on limiting debate on S.1955 was REJECTED 55 - 43.
DEM AYE votes were Landrieu and Nelson (NE).

S.2254 - A bill to authorize the Secretary of the Army to carry out restoration projects along the Middle Rio Grande, passed on unanimous consent.

Adjourn until 9:30 tomorrow. Action Monday will be on the immigration bill. Tuesday will include votes on amendments to the immigration bill, as well as a confirmation vote on Milan Smith for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.


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