This was one of a series of votes generated by procedural moves of the Republican minority to protest the decision of the Democratic majority to limit the number of amendments that could be offered to H.R. 2847, the fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the multi-billion dollar Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs. Formally, this was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Schock (R-IL) to transfer $500,000 from the Bureau of the Census to the International Trade Administration for a study on the economic benefits of the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Act.
The amendment had previously been approved during consideration of H.R. 2487 by the “Committee of the Whole”. This committee is technically an entity separate from the full House of Representatives, although its membership is the same as that of the House. Using the device of the Committee of the Whole facilitates consideration of legislation. Under House procedures, bills and amendments are typically debated and amended after the House has resolved itself into the Committee of the Whole. There can be a revote on amendments that are adopted by that committee after it formally resolves itself back into the full House of Representatives. That is not a typical procedure, especially for amendments, such as this one, that are non-controversial and have been approved by a voice vote in the Committee of the Whole. It was requested in this instance by the Republicans.
When this amendment was considered in the Committee of the Whole, Rep. Schock, had noted that the decision to approve the U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Act, which he said “will result in more good-paying manufacturing jobs for all Americans”, had been pending for a year. Schock said that he wanted “to know the price of this neglect.” He acknowledged that “there are those who believe that the Colombian Free Trade Agreement will, in essence, result in the loss of American jobs. And to these Members, I would say vote for my amendment. If you are right, my amendment will prove that and the study subsequently will prove that. Please have the confidence in your convictions that I have in mine and vote for this amendment, and we'll see which of the two sides is correct.”
Rep. Mollohan, (D-WV), who was managing H.R. 2847 for the Democrats, had said during the debate that the Democratic majority was willing to accept the amendment. It had been approved in the Committee of the Whole on a voice vote. However, the vote “in the House” on the Schock Amendment was 179-236. One hundred and sixty-eight Republicans and eleven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and thirty-three Democrats and three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, although the amendment had been adopted on a voice vote in the Committee of the Whole, it was rejected in the House; and the proposed transfer of $500,000 in H.R. 2847 from the Census Bureau to the International Trade Administration was not approved.