This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass legislation authorizing $47 billion to be spent over three years on research intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research. Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds majority vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
H.R. 5325 was a revised version of legislation considered by the House the previous week. The earlier version (H.R. 5116) provided $86 billion over five years (while H.R. 5325 provided $47 billion over three years). This revision was intended to attract support from Republicans, who had complained about the bill’s price tag. House Democrats abruptly ended consideration of H.R. 5116 before voting on final passage after the House agreed to Republican-drafted motion to recommit. (A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified.)
The GOP motion to recommit eliminated all new programs established by H. R. 5116 (including a loan guarantee program for small manufacturers seeking to improve their competitiveness through technological innovation), and froze spending on existing programs at 2010 levels. The motion to recommit also required colleges and universities receiving funds provided by the bill to allow military recruiters on their campuses. In addition, the motion to recommit prohibited federal funds from being used to view, download, or exchange pornography.
The motion to recommit effectively put Democrats in a difficult political position. In order to vote against eliminating programs they supported – such as the loan guarantee program described above – they would have to vote against barring federal funds from being used to view and disseminate pornography.
Thus, Democrats brought a revised version of that bill to the floor under suspension of the rules – a procedure that does not allow for any amendments or a motion to recommit. In order to win GOP support, Democrats incorporated the anti-pornography language from the motion to recommit into the new bill (H.R. 5325). In addition, Democrats reduced overall funding provided by the bill to $47 billion (from $86 billion).
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) urged support for the bill: “ The bill before us today, H.R. 5325, is similar to the bill the House considered last week…However, the bill differs in two respects. One, it includes language from the motion to recommit barring money from going to agency employees who were disciplined for viewing pornography at work, and two, the authorization period for all programs in the bill has been changed from 5 years to 3 years. I understand the concerns of many of my colleagues about the overall size of a 5-year authorization, and this reduction is my sincere attempt to compromise on an issue that is very important to me and our country.“
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) urged members to oppose the bill: “While I remain committed to the underlying goals of the America COMPETES Act [H.R. 5325], the bill before us today continues to take us in a much more costly direction and authorizes a number of new programs which have little to do with prioritizing investments in basic science, technology, engineering, and math research and development.”
While a majority of members voted in favor of the bill (261), a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage under suspension of the rules. Since H.R. 5325 did not receive a two-thirds majority vote, the measure failed. All 246 Democrats present and 15 Republicans voted “yea.” 148 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected legislation authorizing $47 billion to be spent over three years on research intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics research. However, Democratic leaders could bring the bill up again under a process requiring only a simple majority vote for passage.