The Senate today failed to vote for cloture on the motion to proceed to the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act (H.J. Res. 66), an annual measure that has imposed import restrictions on the country of Burma/Myanmar for its violations of norms of democracy and freedom. The measure was intended to serve as a vehicle for additional natural disaster funding in the wake of the recent hurricans and tropical storms.
Last year, the Senate agreed to the bill 99-1 (Senator Michael Enzi, R - Wyoming, was the sole holdout). However, the 53 yeas the bill garnered was not enough to end debate on the motion to proceed. Republican Senators Dan Coats (Indiana, Susan Collins (Maine), and Olympia Snowe (Maine) joined Democrats to provide the 53 votes. The 33 nays were all Republican Senators, and 14 Senators did not vote.
Senator Harry Reid (Majority Leader, D- Nevada) moved the vote on the non-controversial Burma bill to show that opponents were voting against the bill solely for the purpose of denying natural disaster funding. Last week Senator Reid indicated that he could move an emergency relief bill as a stand-alone bill in the Senate. This may be his next move. This comes in the wake of controversial comments House Majority Leader Eric Cantor made during Hurricane Irene that indicated that disaster relief would have to be tied to spending cuts.
The Senate is scheduled to resume consideration of the motion to proceed to this bill at 10 am tomorrow.