This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation authorizing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise the maximum premium paid by homeowners under the federal government’s mortgage insurance program. If passed, this particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
The federal government’s mortgage insurance program is run by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), which was established during the Great Depression to make home ownership accessible and affordable for more Americans. It insures mortgages provided to homeowners by FHA-approved private lenders. The program is intended to shield private lenders participating in the program from losses that occur when homeowners default on their loans. The program is largely “self-sustaining” – meaning the taxpayers do not finance it. To keep the program solvent, the legislation raised premiums paid by homeowners receiving loans from FHA-approved lenders.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) praised the legislation: “FHA plays a critical role in the marketplace, and this bill strengthens the program so that it can continue its role in a sound manner. FHA was created during the Great Depression to stimulate the economy, particularly with regard to real estate. This purpose is equally important today, so it is crucial that we make reforms to the program that will allow it to keep up with the industry.”
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) did not criticize the bill, but urged opposition to the resolution and to ordering the previous question, claiming Democrats had not provided for an open amendment process: “…This will be the 31st time that I have handled a rule [a “rule” is a resolution that sets a time limit for debate and determines which amendments can be offered to bills] on this House floor in this Congress, and this is the 31st time that I have yet to handle an open rule. In fact, out of the over 120 rules of this Congress, we have not debated one open rule. Not one open rule this Congress. I don't believe that closing debate, limiting amendments, and shutting Democrats and Republicans out of thoughtful ideas is a good way to run this House.” While Perlmutter did not specifically rebut Sessions’ criticisms with respect to the amendment process, he had noted in his opening remarks that the resolution allowed 13 amendments to be offered to the underlying bill.
The House agreed to the motion ordering the previous question by a vote of 230-180. 230 Democrats voted “yea.” All 170 Republicans present and 10 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation authorizing the Department of Housing and Urban Development to raise the maximum premium paid by homeowners under the federal government’s mortgage insurance program.”