Defense Department spending bill to provide $95.5 billion in "emergency" appropriations for the military for the remainder of fiscal 2007/Motion to recommit with instructions to delete the section requiring a second vote to release part of the funds after the president reports to Congress on the Iraqi government's progress in meeting benchmarks
house Roll Call 332 May 10, 2007
This vote was on a motion to force an amendment to legislation to provide $95 billion in "emergency" appropriations for the Defense Department, primarily to fund the war in Iraq. The amendment would have deleted the section in the bill requiring a second vote by Congress to release some of the funds after President Bush reported back on the Iraqi government's progress in meeting benchmarks.
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 a motion to recommit succeeds, the bill goes back to its committee of origin and language is added to reflect the instructions adopted.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) offered the motion. He said the language that would require Bush to report back to Congress with the Iraqi government's progress in meeting 16 specific goals would give Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) the sole authority to introduce a resolution of approval to release the additional funds. Lewis pointed out that Obey could decide not to introduce such a resolution at all.
"The authority that this gives the chairman of the committee to introduce or not introduce legislation is unprecedented," Lewis said. "Further, in an almost unprecedented move, this supplemental includes the rule [for consideration] under which the joint resolution will be brought to the floor. And under this rule, the only amendment made in order is one that mandates the withdrawal of troops from Iraq within 6 months."
That language, Lewis said, would set a "dangerous" precedent that should be of "great concern to Members on both sides of the aisle."
Obey replied that it was time the Bush administration was held accountable. Lewis' motion, he said, would remove the provision that would set aside almost $50 billion pending confirmation by Bush that the Iraqi government has met the 16 benchmarks. The effect of the motion to recommit, Obey maintained, was "to give the president every dollar he wants, no questions asked, no oversight, no review, no nothing."
The fencing, as Obey called it, was in his view the only pressure for a policy change in Iraq. "If you vote for this motion, it is an endorsement of the status quo," Obey concluded.
This Iraq war-spending bill was drafted after President Bush vetoed similar legislation because of its inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. (See Roll Calls 235 and 276.)
Under the new legislation, the war-spending bill itself would be divided into two parts: $42.8 billion would be provided immediately to fund military operations, an amount expected to last two to three months. The measure would then require a second round of votes in late July to release the remaining $52.8 billion.
The legislation would also include similar benchmarks for the Iraqi government as had been in the spending bill Bush vetoed May 1. Prior to the vote to release the second sum of funding, Congress would vote on an amendment requiring that the second sum be used solely to start bringing U.S. combat forces home within 90 days of enactment.
On an almost completely party-line vote, the motion to recommit failed. All but three Republicans present voted for it, and all but three Democrats present voted against it. Thus, by a vote of 195 to 229, the House rejected a Republican attempt to force a vote on an amendment that would have deleted a provision in the bill requiring Congress to vote again to release half of the funds only after Bush certified that the Iraqi government had met certain benchmarks. Legislation providing $95.5 billion for the Defense Department to conduct the war in Iraq proceeded with the provision for conditional two-part funding intact.
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