This was a vote on a motion to recommit on a telecommuting bill requiring the head of each federal agency to certify that telecommuting or “teleworking” (working from home) policies would save the agency money before allowing employees to telecommute. The motion to recommit also prohibited federal employees from downloading pornography while telecommuting. Employees who were delinquent on their taxes, or who had been disciplined for poor work performance, would be barred from telecommuting. In addition, the motion to recommit prohibited employees from engaging in collective bargaining activities while telecommuting.
A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change 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 underlying bill required federal agencies to determine which employees are eligible to telecommute (work from home). The bill also required those agencies to designate an official to supervise telecommuting programs for federal employees.)
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) urged support for the motion to recommit: “…If adopted, this motion will require that each agency must certify to the Office of Personnel Management that the agency's telework program will save money, rather than increase spending. Furthermore, teleworking privileges will not be granted to employees that have been disciplined for poor work performance and behavior, such as viewing pornography on work computers, having a record of being absent without permission, or who are delinquent in paying their taxes. “
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) argued that agencies could not be expected to certify savings (from telecommuting) since the Appropriations Committee had not yet informed them of their annual budget for the following year. (Without knowing their budget allotments, agencies could not be expected to make such a certification.) In addition, he argued that while agencies would need to spend money to implement telecommuting policies, they would eventually save money. Thus, to expect immediate savings would be unreasonable, he contended: “[The motion to recommit] creates a level of impossibility for us to demonstrate savings when we don't know how much money is going to be used in implementing this measure. That will be decided by the appropriators. And, as well, we realize that to set this up, in order to establish the teleworking protocols, there will be an expenditure to begin with, but the savings will result at a later time.”
Lynch also objected to the restriction on collective bargaining: “I do want to say that prohibiting collective bargaining activity while teleworking is also a question of possible violation with other statutes that I believe may be infringed upon by this motion.”
Lynch also indicated that Democratic members would not be pressured to vote with their party on the motion, saying: “…I would understand and respect the members' rights to vote as they might on this measure.”
The House agreed to the motion to recommit by a vote of 303-119. All 174 Republicans and 129 Democrats vote “yea.” 119 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to a motion to recommit on a telecommuting bill requiring the head of each federal agency to certify that telecommuting policies would save the agency money before allowing employees to telecommute. The motion to recommit also prohibited federal employees from downloading pornography while telecommuting.