This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill to provide additional fiscal year 2009 funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The rule allowed the Appropriations Committee, which had developed the bill, to offer a major amendment to it, but did not allow Members to offer individual amendments. Although there was general bipartisan support for the additional funding, the Republican minority opposed the rule setting the terms for considering the bill, because it did not allow for any individual amendments to be offered. It also opposed the motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule.
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) expressed the position of the Republican minority when he said “the Democratic leadership has done a less than perfect job in dealing with the request for bipartisanship, shutting out Republicans and injecting a greater and greater amount of partisanship into the legislative process. There are some key improvements that I believe need to be made. Unfortunately, the rule that we are considering today prevents any amendments from being considered. Even amidst this great bipartisan effort, the Democratic leadership has chosen to tarnish the outcome by refusing to allow debate on a number of key issues.”
Referring to this vote, Dreier said “the vote on whether to order the previous question on a special rule is not merely a procedural vote. A vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Democratic majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan.”
The leading issue on which the Republicans wanted to offer amendments related to the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Rep. Boehner (R-OH), the House Minority Leader, encouraged Members to vote ‘‘no’’ on the motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule, so that the House could have what he termed “a fair and open debate on (the Guantanamo) issue and (give) Members the opportunity to allow the House to work its will . . . .” Rep. Rogers (R-KY) noted other issues on which he thought the supplemental appropriations should have focused, including drug enforcement. He urged a “no” vote on the motion, after which, he argued, “we can be allowed to bring these matters to this bill.”
Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO), who was leading the effort on behalf of the rule and for moving to an immediate vote on it, did not respond directly to the arguments of the Republicans. He did claim that the amendment prepared by the Appropriations Committee, which the rule made in order to be offered, was drafted “in the spirit of bipartisanship”.
The motion passed by a vote of 240-188. All two hundred and forty “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. One hundred and seventy-eight Republicans and ten Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the bill providing additional fiscal year 2009 funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.