(H. Res, 609) Legislation providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration - - on whether the House should move to an immediate vote on the resolution setting the terms for debating the bill
This was a vote on bringing to an immediate vote the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating H.R. 2997. That bill provided fiscal year 2010 funds for the Department of Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. The rule for H.R. 2997 permitted very few amendments to be offered during consideration of the measure. The vote on whether to move to an immediate vote is known as “ordering the previous question.” The Rules Committee parliamentary web site notes that, “in order to amend a rule . . . the House must vote against ordering the previous question.”
The Republican minority had expressed its strong opposition to the limitation on amendments in this and other rules. Rep. Foxx (R-NC), a member of the House Rules Committee, argued that: “(T)hroughout this appropriations season, the Democrat majority has taken unprecedented steps to silence both the minority and their own Democrat colleagues by offering all appropriations bills under (very restrictive) rules. This has consistently eliminated the ability of Members to speak up for how their constituents believe their money should be spent. But today marks a record in modern history. Today, the Democrat majority has gone even further by surpassing the number of restrictive rules ever offered during appropriations season in the House of Representatives.”
Rep. Conaway (R-TX) claimed that the Democratic majority “continue(s) to . . . defend their idea . . . that the amendments that would make this bill better are somehow trivial and shouldn't be debated on this floor.” He went on to say that if “218 (a majority) of us say we disagree with the hard work that the Appropriations Committee has done and want to reduce that spending . . . that money wouldn't get spent; that money would actually reduce the deficit. My colleagues on the other side are frightful . . . that the will of this Congress may be that we disagree with the appropriations process. The Appropriations Committee . . . should just get one bite at that apple (and) . . . then allow the 435 of us, the rest of us who aren't on the Appropriations Committee, to have our say . . . .”
The Democratic majority took the position that a limitation on the number of amendments, and the resulting limitation on the length of debate, was needed in all the 2010 fiscal year spending bills. They argued this limitation was needed in order to meet the goal of enacting all the spending bills by the beginning of that fiscal year. In recent years, many spending bills had not been signed into law before the beginning of the fiscal year to which they applied.
Rep. McGovern (D-MA) was leading the support for the rule. Referring to the underlying legislation and the fact that amendments to it had been limited under the rule, he said: “There are programs that I think should be funded at higher levels and other programs that should be reduced. Other colleagues undoubtedly have different priorities. But I believe that this bill is a solid, thoughtful, good compromise.”
Rep. DeLauro (D-CT), the chair of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 2997, argued that: “(W)e have had an open process throughout the subcommittee and committee markups. I believe this rule sets in motion what has been a fair process . . . Clearly, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have had an opportunity to speak their minds on these issues and have their amendments considered (during the subcommittee and Appropriations Committee drafting sessions).”
Rep. Farr (D-CA), another Democratic member of the Appropriations Committee and a supporter of the rule, disagreed with the Republican argument that they had been shut out, since, he argued, they were permitted to appear at Appropriations Committee hearings and they participated in the committee process of actually drafting the bill.
The motion passed by a vote of 230-177. All 230 “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Six other Democrats joined with one hundred and seventy-one Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to move to a vote on the rule setting the terms for debating H.R. 2997.