What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Protecting Rights of Congressional Minorities : H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Motion to Proceed to a Vote on a Resolution Which Would Waive the Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Enacting the Rules of Debate Governing Consideration of the 2004 Omnibus Spending Bill on the Same Day that the Rules Were Reported From the House Rules Committee. (2003 house Roll Call 672)
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H.R. 2673. Fiscal 2004 Omnibus Appropriations/Motion to Proceed to a Vote on a Resolution Which Would Waive the Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Enacting the Rules of Debate Governing Consideration of the 2004 Omnibus Spending Bill on the Same Day that the Rules Were Reported From the House Rules Committee.
house Roll Call 672     Dec 08, 2003
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

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, in an effort to circumvent the two-thirds vote requirement, Republican leaders in the House drafted a resolution which would waive that requirement and allow a simple majority vote in favor of the rules governing debate on omnibus appropriations legislation. 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). Lawmakers readily admit that given their enormous size and complexity, 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 a motion to proceed to the resolution which would waive the two-thirds vote requirement required for same-day consideration of a rule governing debate on the 2004 omnibus appropriations bill (the 2004 omnibus bill contained seven uncompleted appropriations bills). Progressives characterized the resolution as yet another attempt by Republicans to violate both 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 underlying omnibus bill. 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 motion to proceed and argued that the end of the congressional session justified their efforts to complete action on appropriations legislation as quickly as possible. On a party line vote of 211-179, the motion to proceed was adopted and a vote was allowed on the resolution to waive the two-thirds vote requirement for same-day consideration of the rules of debate on the 2004 omnibus spending bill.

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