This was a vote to allow the House to suspend its regular rules of operation and pass four resolutions honoring individuals and organizations. There were four non-controversial resolutions that the House leadership wanted to pass on Thursday, February 12, 2009. They included honoring the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, recognizing the Pittsburgh Steelers for winning the Super Bowl, supporting American Heart Month, and naming a post office in Georgia after a local official. Before the House could take up any of these, it had to pass a separate resolution permitting the rules to be suspended on a Thursday. This was a vote to do so.
Separately, the House and Senate conferees had just completed work on the final version of the large stimulus package. Consideration of this traditionally non-controversial resolution regarding suspending the rules therefore became an opportunity for the Republican minority to voice its disagreements over the stimulus package, and to express its opposition to the way the majority Democrats were running the House.
Rep. Foxx (R-NC), a member of the Rules Committees, said that Republicans “have no objections to honoring the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and the Pittsburgh Steelers for winning the Super Bowl,” but then added that “there are more important things that we should be dealing with and . . . I will recommend to my colleagues that we vote against . . . .” Rep. Kingston (R-GA), in supported of Rep. Foxx’s argument, said that ” . . . while unemployment is at an all-time high . . . we're going to spend time and tax dollars congratulating the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Republican alternative has twice the jobs created at half the cost . . . (as the Democratic plan) . . . .” He also complained about the final version of the stimulus package not being available in time for Members to examine it adequately, and noted that Congress would soon be taking “the largest single vote in terms of expenditure in the history of the United States . . . with little or no time to review it.”
The House often passes formal resolutions to honor events, individuals and achievements. The votes on these types of resolutions are typically not controversial and often approved, as a matter of convenience, by suspending the House rules relating to its formal procedures. The House can normally only suspend its rules to pass such resolutions on Monday through Wednesday.
Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO), who is also on the Rules Committee, first responded by noting that the matter under formal consideration was about conducting the House’s business and voting on four non-controversial resolutions. However, he did go on to say that the purpose of the Democratic stimulus package is to rejuvenate this economy and to get it back on track.
The resolution passed on an almost straight party line vote of 248 ayes to 174 nays. All two hundred and forty-eight “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Two other Democrats joined with all the Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to suspend its rules the following day and consider the four non-controversial questions.