This was a procedural vote on a resolution granting the Education and Labor Committee the authority to take depositions relating to its investigation of a mine explosion in West Virginia. (This particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.) On April 5, 2010, 29 miners were killed in an explosion in Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia.
Rep. Louise Sluaghter (D-NY) urged support for the resolution: “this resolution provides the Committee on Education and Labor with deposition authority in connection with its investigation of underground mine safety. The resolution also requires the Education and Labor Committee to report to the Rules Committee on its use of the authority by the end of this congressional session. Mr. Speaker, we're here today with a pretty straightforward mission. We want to empower the men and women who are investigating the causes of the serious safety problems facing miners in America.”
Rep. David Dreier argued that the House need not have considered the resolution, because Republicans would have agreed to grant the committee deposition authority unanimously. If the House had agreed by “unanimous consent” to grant this authority, no vote would have been taken on the matter. Dreier urged members to defeat the previous question motion: “…I'm going to move to defeat the previous question. I'm going to move to defeat the previous question, not so that we, in any way, would undermine this very important authority that the Committee on Education and Labor is going to have, but to enhance this and get us back to an issue which I think is very near and dear to the American people since we've all agreed that this kind of authority, Democrats and Republicans alike, is essential. We believe that if we can defeat the previous question, we will have the opportunity to take on the issue of deficit spending, which has been incredibly painful all the way around.”
The House agreed the motion ordering the previous question by a vote of 240-177. 240 Democrats voted “yea.” All 168 Republicans present and 9 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution granting the Education and Labor Committee the authority to take depositions relating to its investigation of a mine explosion on April 5, 2010 in West Virginia.