Senate votes to close debate on Patent Reform Act

The bill also survived an amendment offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would have stripped language switching the nation’s patent system to a “first-to-file” system, gutting the bill of one of its most fundamental actions. The Senate voted to table that measure in a 87-13 vote.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is managing the floor debate, said last week he hoped the bill would win final passage by Thursday afternoon.

Limiting debate, or reaching cloture, required 60 votes while the vote on final passage will require a simple majority. Now that cloture has been reached, the Senate will spend a maximum of 30 hours on further debate before the final vote where the bill is expected to pass by a wide margin.

Amendments are allowed during the post-cloture period of debate with unanimous consent. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee began considering several versions of the Patent Reform Act starting in 2005 but ran into opposition and various obstacles along the way. The last time Congress enacted significant patent reform was more than 60 years ago.

The three no votes were Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Jim Risch (R-ID.)

--This story was updated at 9:34 on Tuesday