This was a vote on a motion to recommit with instructions that would have increased funding for Pell Grants by $39 million. (Pell Grants provide federal financial aid to low-income college students.) A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. This motion to recommit was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) urged support for the motion to recommit: “The approach we take must focus on responsible cuts, which will have a lasting impact on the deficit, not arbitrary short-term cuts to programs that are needed to prepare the next generation of American workers and taxpayers. Consider the effects of the bill before us on Specialist John Carabillo from my home state of New Mexico. Specialist Carabillo served in the Army for 6 years, and he was deployed to Iraq twice during his service….After returning to New Mexico, Specialist Carabillo decided he wanted to go back to school and earn his degree in IT [information technology]. The Pell Grant scholarships and GI benefits Specialist Carabillo receives have allowed him to enroll in an associate's program at a vocational school….The Republican bill would cut Specialist Carabillo's Pell Grant scholarship. This cut in his financial aid means that he will have to take fewer courses this year and graduate later, try to take a loan he can't afford or drop out of school.”
No members spoke in opposition to this motion to recommit. Republicans, however, unanimously voted against it. In a CQ Today article on Pell Grants, Congressional Quarterly reporter Lauren Smith wrote: “House Republicans have made no secret of their desire to cut the program…” She quoted Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN): "‘I think everything is on the table,’ said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who was Education secretary under President George H. W. Bush. ‘Anytime you're borrowing 42 cents of every dollar you spend, you have to say everything is on the table.’”
The House rejected this motion to recommit by a vote of 186-238. All 186 Democrats present voted “yea.” All 238 Republicans present voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected a motion to recommit that would have increased funding for Pell Grants in a continuing resolution by $39 million.