The Senate voted 93-5 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to consideration of H.R. 1249. Only 5 Republicans voted against cloture: Sens. Tom Coburn (OK), Jim DeMint (SC), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Lee (UT), and Rand Paul (KY).
I am not an expert on parliamentary procedure or on the rules of the U.S. Senate, but the following is my understanding of how the debates and votes will proceed. Please correct me if I am wrong.
The Senate has rather complex rules regarding bringing bills forward for debate, presenting amendments, and actually considering the bills on the merits. Multiple votes are required on many bills. While most votes on motions are simply passed by “unanimous consent,” or a voice vote, any sentor may request that an actual recorded vote take place. The Senate rules permit unlimited debate on most motions and bills unless a vote is taken to “invoke cloture” on the debate. Again, this vote may be dispensed with by unanimous consent, but otherwise requires 60 votes to pass.
When a bill is passed by the House, it is “referred to” the Senate. The Senate may submit the bill to a committee or it may seek to present the bill to the entire chamber. First, a bill must be “before the Senate” in order to be considered. This requires a vote (or unanimous consent) of the Senate. Once the bill is before the Senate for consideration, it may be amended and debated on its merits.
The Senate is not actually considering or voting on its own version of patent reform, S. 23, that is passed in March. Instead, it is considering the House version of the bill, H.R. 1249, that the House passed in June. Thus, it is necessary to get H.R. 1249 before the Senate for consideration on the merits.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) made a motion in June to invoke cloture on the question of laying the bill before the Senate. The actual vote yesterday was on Sen. Reid’s motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to consider H.R. 1249. This is not a vote on the merits of the bill, but only on whether the Senate can move to consider the merits of the bill. Debate on the merits of this motion will proceed today after the morning business in the Senate and requires a simple majority vote. Once that takes place, the Senate can move to consider the bill on its merits.
While the Senate may reach agreements or unanimous consent on several of these steps, passage of the bill may not be quite as iminent as was originally thought. The Senate may now take up to 30 hours to debate whether to consider the merits of H.R. 1249 before it actually does so. Next, come the votes on the merits of the bill before its final passage.
Sen. Coburn’s Statement
Sen. Coburn has long been a proponent to ending fee diversion. He proposed the amendment to S. 23 that would have ended th practice. After yesterday’s vote, he issued a statement decrying fee diverion as a tax on innovation. In his statement, he indicates that he will raise his amendment to end fee diversion once again.
If my amendment fails, I will do everything in my power to slow the bill and highlight this egregious tax on innovation.