H.R. 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act), manager's amendment by Thompson of Mississippi to give the Transportation Department control over administering bus and rail security grant funding/Revote on agreeing to the amendment
house Roll Call 198 Mar 27, 2007
This was a revote on an amendment offered by Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) that had been previously approved (see Roll Call 194) by the Committee of the Whole. The amendment was previously attached to a $6 billion transportation security bill. Under House rules, any lawmaker -- in this case Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) -- can demand a revote by the full House on an amendment adopted in the Committee of the Whole.
The Committee of the Whole is used to expedite the business of the House and utilizes a lower quorum threshold, restricted time for debate and limits on the kinds of parliamentary maneuvers allowed. (A quorum is the minimum number of lawmakers required to conduct business. In the full House a quorum is 218 Members whereas a quorum in the Committee of the Whole is only 100.)
Thompson was a cosponsor of the legislation, and this amendment was what's known as "manager's amendment." In this case, the manager's amendment reflected compromise language that Thompson and Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) agreed upon after both panels had written their own versions of the transit security legislation. The principle disagreement was over whether the Transportation or Homeland Security department should distribute the funds outlined in the bill.
The compromise language included in this amendment would give the Transportation Department control over administering the grants, which would still be technically housed in the Homeland Security Department. The latter would make funding recommendations based on the agency's vulnerability assessments, and both departments would audit the programs.
Thompson hailed the legislation as "an important milestone" in protecting the countries transit systems and expressed his gratitude that the two committees were able to overcome the jurisdictional fights that had stalled the bill for weeks. Many Republicans complained that the bill was potentially wasteful, and in the words of the ranking Republican on the Transportation panel, Rep. John Mica (Fla.), would distribute funds "willy-nilly."
Many Republicans were also critical of strengthened whistleblower protections included in the manager's amendment. The House already passed similar protections barring retribution against employees who expose fraud, waste and corruption in an earlier bill that had yet to make it to the president's desk. The White House threatened to veto this legislation on account of the whistleblower provision, claiming that it would undermine the government's ability to protect information related to national security.
Republicans were further opposed to the manger's amendment because it sought to prevent state and local first-responders ineligible to receive direct grant funding.
Thompson's amendment was approved the first time in the Committee of the Whole on a vote of 224-199. This time the vote was 222-197, and as with the previous vote, three Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting "no." Thus, a bill to authorize over $6 billion over four years to improve bus and rail security went forward with previously passed compromise language that settled internal party squabbles as to how the grant money in the $6 billion transportation security bill was to be distributed.
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