What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Public Employees : H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Vote on the Rules of Debate Governing Consideration of the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. (2003 house Roll Call 675)
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H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Vote on the Rules of Debate Governing Consideration of the 2004 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
house Roll Call 675     Dec 08, 2003
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

In two previous votes-Roll Call Votes 672 and 673-House rules were waived in order to allow omnibus appropriations legislation to be debated on the House floor despite the fact that the legislation was reported from committee earlier that day. Republican leaders wanted to enact the measure on the House floor as quickly as possible, while Democrats (including Progressives) protested that the consideration of this bill by the entire House on the same day that it was reported out of committee gave them insufficient time to read and understand the contents of the complex piece of legislation. This vote was the last of four procedural votes which were held prior to a vote on final passage of the omnibus appropriations bill. Before legislation can be officially debated on the House floor, (at least) two procedural matters must first be disposed of. The first involves a motion to proceed. If adopted, the motion to proceed (or, in Capitol Hill parlance, the "motion to order the previous question") allows the House to vote on the rules governing debate on a particular bill (rules are drafted by the House Rules Committee, a de facto arm of the majority party leadership). Rules are required to set the terms of debate, including the amount of time allocated for discussion and the number and types of amendments which can be offered to a particular bill. After a rule has been reported out of the House Rules Committee, lawmakers are usually provided three days to review both the rule itself and, more importantly, the contents of the underlying legislation to which the rule would apply. If House leaders schedule a vote on a rule on the same day that it emerged from the Rules Committee, then a two-thirds majority vote, rather than a simple majority, must be obtained to adopt the rule (the two-thirds requirement for same-day consideration of a rule is intended to insure that lawmakers have ample time to review a particular piece of legislation prior to House floor debate). However, to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement, Republican leaders secured passage of a resolution which waived that requirement and allowed a simple majority vote in favor of the rules governing debate on omnibus appropriations legislation (see House vote 673). Omnibus appropriations bills bundle two or more of the thirteen individual appropriations bills into a single measure (each year, Congress must pass and the president must sign into law thirteen appropriations bills either separately or in the form of an omnibus bill in order to fund the operation of government). Given their enormous size and complexity, lawmakers readily admit that omnibus bills are not the ideal vehicle for debating budgetary issues. Nonetheless, if Congress appears unable to complete action on all thirteen spending bills by the end of the congressional session, then House leaders often rely on the omnibus method in order to expedite passage of those bills. Generally, lawmakers are less willing to oppose an omnibus bill based on specific policy or funding objections because omnibus legislation raises the stakes of budgetary policy-making (if Congress fails to pass all thirteen spending bills by October 1, the end of the fiscal year, then the areas of government which failed to receive funding for the upcoming year shut down). The subject of this vote was the rules of debate on the 2004 omnibus appropriations bill (the 2004 omnibus bill contained seven uncompleted appropriations bills). Progressives opposed the rules of debate, which based a previous vote only required a simple majority for passage, and argued that the Republicans' procedural tactics on the omnibus bill were in violation of the rules of the House and the rights of minority Democrats (see also House vote 590 for other examples of what Democrats have characterized as strong-arm, or even unlawful, tactics by the Republican leadership). Progressives protested that holding House floor debate on the omnibus bill on the same day that it was reported from the Rules Committee provided them with an insufficient amount of time to read the bill and understand its contents. Progressives also voiced specific policy objections to the seven appropriations bills which were lumped together into the omnibus. While those objections are far too numerous to detail here, a sampling of complaints include the failure to extend unemployment benefits to the millions of out-of-work Americans, the inclusion of administration-supported rules to deny overtime pay to certain classes of white-collar workers, provisions to allow greater media concentration, and language to privatize some government jobs. Conservatives voted in favor of the rules of debate and argued that the end of the congressional session justified their efforts to complete action on appropriations legislation. On a party line vote of 216-189, the rules of debate were adopted and a vote was allowed on final passage of the 2004 omnibus spending bill.

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