Providing for consideration of legislation to reauthorize the Head Start program (H.R. 1429)/Motion to order the previous question (end debate) on the rules package (H. Res. 348)
house Roll Call 273 May 02, 2007
This was a vote to determine who would control the agenda as the House began debate on a bill to reauthorize the Head Start program through fiscal 2012. Under consideration was the rules for debate for the legislation, and this vote was to essentially force a vote on the resolution. The resolution outlined the rules for debate for the bill, including how much floor time would be granted to each side and which amendments would be considered in order. The resolution is thus commonly known as the rules package.
Republicans opposed the rules package because the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee proposed what's known as a "structured rule," meaning that only the amendments pre-approved by the panel would get an up-or-down vote on the floor.
To oppose ordering the previous question was a vote against the Democratic majority's agenda and to allow the opposition to offer an alternative plan. Opposing motions to order the previous question are about who controls the debate and represent one of the only tools available to those who oppose the majority's agenda.
Although reauthorizing the early-childhood development program - and thus approving $7.4 billion in funding for fiscal 2008 (and such sums as necessary through fiscal 2012) - found considerable support among Republicans, and a majority of them ended up voting for final passage of the legislation, the rules package was a different matter.
Republicans balked because they wanted to offer an amendment to allow religious organizations that receive federal funds to use a potential employee's religious affiliation as a factor in hiring. However, the Rules Committee blocked a Republican amendment to that effect from being considered on the House floor , drawing Republican objection. The provision had been included in previous Head Start authorization bills. Approximately 80 organizations that receive federal grants for early-childhood programs have religious affiliations, though not all consider religious affiliation in selecting their employees
"Head Start has a proud history of inclusion of faith-based organizations," Rep. Lincoln Diaz Balart (R-Fla.) said.
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) countered that "No citizen should have to pass a religious test to qualify for a publicly funded job."
"Religious organizations who run Head Start programs are not asking for this change," Castor continued. "They have written us to oppose it. Head Start teachers and staff should be chosen because they are qualified and they are effective teachers who will help children succeed and thrive. Hiring and firing decisions should not be made because of a teacher's religion. This is part of an ongoing attempt, I am afraid, by some on the other side of the aisle to make religion a wedge issue."
This vote was a motion ordering the previous question, which is a parliamentary maneuver that effectively ends debate, prohibits amendment and moves the House to a vote for an up-or-down of the resolution under consideration. If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the House in effect turns control of the floor over to the lawmaker who led the opposition to the question at hand, usually a member of the minority party. As such, motions to order the previous question are usually party-line votes, and the majority party almost always prevails.
The House voted on an almost entirely party-line vote to approve the motion to order the previous question. Only one Democrat and one Republican broke rank with their respective parties, otherwise all Democrats were in favor and all Republicans were opposed. Thus, by a vote of 226 to 194, the Democrats maintained control of the debate and a resolution outlining the rules for consideration of a bill to reauthorize the federal early-childhood program Head Start moved towards and up-or-down vote.
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