This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating H.R. 2847. That bill provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for science and other federal programs. The rule permitted only a limited number of amendments to be offered..
Rep. Slaughter (D-NY), who was leading the effort on behalf of the rule, said that the reason for the limitation in the rule on amendments that could be offered was Democratic concern “that we were unlikely to get an agreement from the (Republican) minority for a set and reasonable schedule to consider these spending bills. Without such an agreement, there was a very real fear on our side that the process could have degenerated into a drawn-out battle, jeopardizing our party's commitment to getting each of the 12 appropriations bills completed on time this year.” She added that “it's sometimes tempting for the party in the minority to blow up the process (and) . . . we have in recent years detected a trend where more and more amendments are given to us each year on appropriations bills, often for no other reason than political gamesmanship or stunts.”
Slaughter said that one of the reasons for the restriction in the rule on the number of amendments that could be offered to H.R. 2847 was that “it became clear this week that the minority was not ready to agree to a clear and firm schedule for finishing the work on the appropriations bills . . . .”
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who was leading the opposition to the rule for the Republicans, said the terms of the rule broke House precedent. He argued that “the (Democratic) majority is now bringing forth this (revised) rule that will block consideration of most of the amendments that were made in order under the (rule that was in place when H.R. 2847 was previously debated) . . . .” He claimed that, as a result, Members who adhered to the terms of the previous rule could not offer any amendments. Diaz-Balart concluded by saying that this was “unjust” because it prevented Members from representing the interests of their constituents.
The Democrats had argued that, if the House were forced to consider the large number of amendments the Republicans wanted to offer, it would unduly delay the process of passing funding bills for all government departments in a timely manner. Not all Democrats agreed with this justification for the limitation on amendments. However, no Democrat criticized the rule during the debate on it.
Rep. McCaul (R-TX) supported the argument that Diaz-Balart had made. McCaul quoted from an article written by House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) in which she said “bills should generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full and fair debate, consisting of a full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives. McCaul then added: “(T)his right has been denied.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 221-201. All 221 “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Twenty-seven other Democrats joined one hundred and seventy-four Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to continue its deliberations of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funds for the Departments of Commerce and Justice.