This was a vote on a motion to table (kill) an appeal of a ruling that a motion to recommit the bill and add certain specified language was out of order. The motion had been made by Rep.Kingston (R-GA). The language he sought to add was that it was the sense of the House that it should adhere to statements made in 2000 by Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey (D-WI), Those statements favored permitting unlimited amendments to be offered to legislation. Obey, a Democrat, made them when the Republicans had control of the House.
Kingston had moved to add the additional language to the bill that provided fiscal year 2010 funds for the Department of Agriculture, rural development, and the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies. The language was ruled out of order based on the House regulation that prohibits “legislating” on a funding bill, rather than just changing the amount or way that the federal government is to spend money. The language that Kingston sought to add was ruled to be legislating on H.R, 2965.
Kingston’s motion to add this language was part of an ongoing campaign by Republicans against what they were claiming was a practice of the Democratic majority of limiting the number of amendments that could be offered on bills, especially funding bills. Kingston said: “(W)e are on the verge of voting on a (multibillion dollar) bill which represents a 14 percent increase over last year's spending level in the backdrop of a nation that has an $11 trillion national debt . . . what this motion to recommit does is say that we were not allowed to vote on 90 different amendments offered by Democrats and Republicans (and) these amendments, had we had the opportunity to vote on them, would have improved the bill. Rep. Young (R-AK), who has been in the House for 39 years, said that he had never seen appropriations handled in such an ‘unfair manner’”.
The Democrat majority had been arguing that limitations needed to be placed on the number of amendments that could be offered as a way of completing all the funding bills in a timely manner. During the past few years, there had been a number of occasions in which all the funding bills for a fiscal year were not completed before that year began. During the previous year, which was the last of the second Bush Administration, no funding bills were passed before the fiscal year began.
Rep. Simpson (R-ID) had previously commented on the Democratic timing argument. He had said that “in the name of expediency . . . what we have done is cut Members out (by) not being able to offer amendments on the floor, not only minority Members but majority Members too. . . Members have the right and the ability to represent their constituents . . . That means offering amendments to appropriation bills. Our history has been that appropriation bills come to the floor under an open rule so that Members have the right to offer amendments. Our job is to come here and debate issues, not expediency, trying to get them done at a specific time. By doing that, what we do is cut off Members' ability to represent their constituents on this floor.”
The vote was 246-174 on an almost straight party line basis. All two hundred and forty-six “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Five other Democrats joined one hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the appeal of the procedural ruling was not voted on, and the Republicans did not succeed in having unlimited amendments allowed for all bills the House considered.