The House and Senate had passed differing versions of H.R.3288, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Transportation and for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As is the usual procedure in such situations, a conference was scheduled between representatives of the two bodies to develop a final version of the bill. This was on a motion by Rep. Latham (R-IA) that the House instruct its representatives to the conference not to agree to any matter that was not dealt with in either the House or Senate versions of H.R. 3288. The motion also instructed the House conferees not to agree to a final version of the bill unless they had at least 72 hours to review it.
Latham made the motion to prevent a procedure whereby other, unrelated, funding bills would be added to H.R. 3288 in conference and then be voted on by the House as one large package. Latham said he was concerned that House Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey (D-WI) was “planning on lumping five other bills with the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill . . . .” Latham said three of those other funding bills “Financial Services, Foreign Operations, and the Labor-Health and Human Services bills (hadn’t) even (been) considered on the Senate floor. Two of the other bills— (for) Military Construction and the (Departments) of Commerce (and) Justice--have passed both the House and the Senate, and there is no reason these bills shouldn't have their own free-standing conferences.”
Regarding the reason for the 72 hour requirement, Latham said: “There are billions of dollars at stake and a lot of policy to digest. It's our responsibility that we, as elected Representatives representing our districts, know what we're voting on.”
Rep. Olver (D-MA) was leading the opposition to the motion. He noted that, in 2005 when the Republicans were in the majority and controlled legislative proceedings, the House passed a bill combining ten major spending bills into one; he also noted that one of those bills “had never been considered in the Senate.” Olver went on to note that, in 2004 and 2003, when the Republicans were also in the majority, a similar process was used. He added that “it is a time-honored process.”
Regarding the 72 hour requirement, Olver agreed that “in a perfect world, we would have 72 hours to further review this bill.” He said he was opposed to the time requirement at this point because the federal government was already well into the 2010 fiscal year and the funding bills for most federal departments had not yet passed. Olver noted that most departments were operating on “continuing resolutions” - - which allow them to function in fiscal year 2010 at their fiscal year 2009 funding levels - - but that these departments “cannot wait much longer for the (2010) funds . . . (which will) fund critical programs.” He added: “Plus, we all know that we need to have plenty of time for our colleagues on the Senate side to act.”
A number of Democratic Members, including several of the more moderate ones, did not support Rep. Olver. They agreed that the procedure that should be followed is to have the House consider each major spending bill on its own.
The vote on was 212-193. One hundred and sixty-five Republicans and forty-seven Democrats voted “aye”. All one hundred and ninety-three “nay” votes were cast by Democrats, including most of the most progressive Members. As a result, the House instructed its conferees on H.R. 3288 not to agree to include any matter that was not dealt with in either the House or Senate version of the bill, and to wait at least 72 hours after receiving the final version before agreeing to it.