H.R. 2892 provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating H.R. 2892. The rule limited the number of amendments that could be offered to the bill, and permitted roll call votes on it to be completed within two minutes, rather than the customary 5-minute minimum.
Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO) was leading the support for the rule. He described the underlying legislation, for which the rule set the terms of debate, as a “strong bill which invests in robust border security, attentive and agile emergency management capabilities, helpful to state and local partners, and secures our transportation system.” He argued that “(L)ooking beyond the funding levels of this bill, we must also recognize that the Department of Homeland Security is a department, which relies heavily on a well-trained workforce. This bill provides the resources the Department of Homeland Security personnel, as well as our State and local partners, need to meet their objectives.”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA), the Ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, was leading the opposition to the rule and to ordering the previous question on it. He acknowledged that, during the period the Republicans had controlled the House, they “limited (Democrats’) voices in amendment and debate.” However, Dreier said, there had historically been an exception to this debate limitation when it came to spending bills because “the Constitution places the responsibility to spend the people's money in our hands as Members of Congress. We've always taken this responsibility very seriously in a bipartisan way. And we've always--under both Democrats and Republicans--allowed Democrats and Republicans to engage in a free-flowing and rigorous debate.”
He further argued that what he called “the new normal” of limiting amendments on appropriation bills has resulted over the last 2 years in an 85 percent increase in nondefense spending . . . and now we're denied any opportunity to bring about the kinds of reductions that we need . . . .” He then cited the argument the Democrats had made to support their amendment limitation: The Democrats claimed that a limitation on the number of amendments was necessitated by the need to keep to a congressional schedule of passing all spending bills in a timely manner. Dreier said “(W)e understand the exigencies of that schedule . . . (but not of) casting aside democracy and debate because we have to maintain our schedules.”
Dreier went on to criticize the rule because it permitted the imposition of a requirement that roll call votes be completed within two minutes, rather than the customary 5-minute minimum. He cited a congressional committee report, which found that employing the 2-minute requirement on roll call votes had caused serious problems.
Rep. Perlmutter responded to Dreier’s claim that the numerous suggested amendments should all be debated by arguing that “the people of this country are demanding that we act, that we not completely just shut down and . . . it is time to act both on appropriations bills as well as other bills.”
The resolution governing debate on the Homeland Security spending bill passed by a vote of 239-184. Two hundred and thirty-eight Democrats and one Republican voted “aye”. One hundred and seventy-four Republicans and ten Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debating the bill providing funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year.