This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for considering the bill providing fiscal 2010 year funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The rule for the bill permitted very few amendments to be offered during its consideration.
The Republican minority had expressed its strong opposition to the fact that the rules for a series of spending bills, including this one, limited the number of amendments that could be offered. Rep. Flake (R-AZ), had been among the leaders of those stating these objections. He raised a formal point of order during the debate on the rule and said he did it “because it's about the only mechanism we have to talk about the fact that we are bringing appropriation bills to the floor under (rules limiting amendments), which violates basically every precept we've had in this House about openness and transparency on appropriation bills.” Flake claimed: “For years--and decades--appropriation bills have been brought to the floor under an open rule, allowing Members to offer amendments to various sections of the bill . . . But these bills are being brought to the floor all year under closed or structured rules, allowing very, very few amendments.”
Rep. Sessions (R-TX), who had also been arguing against the series of rules limiting amendments said that opposing a vote on the resolution “is a vote against the Democratic majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan.”
Rep. Pingree (D-ME) was leading the effort in support of the rule. She gave the rationale that the House Democratic majority had been expressing to explain the rules that limited the number of amendments to a series of spending bills. Pingree said that the House needed to limit the time during which spending bills could be considered in order to adhere to its schedule of completing all the 2010 spending bills before the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year. In recent years, Congress had been well behind schedule in completing spending bills, and had often failed to pass all of them before the beginning of the fiscal year they covered.
Pingree also said: “There may have been a tradition in the past of appropriations bills coming under more of an open rule, but I balance that with . . . the tremendous amount of work we're expected to get done. I can tell you, from my constituents back in the State of Maine, they say . . . you've got a lot of work to do on renewable energy, on health care. We want to see you move forward on those issues. We want to see (progress on) appropriations bills, like the one we're talking about today, that are going to provide vital services for our veterans . . . We don't want to listen to you with hours of endless debate . . . .”
The motion to vote on the rule was 244-169 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred and forty-four “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Five other Democrats joined one hundred and sixty-four Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for considering the fiscal year 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs funding bill.