(H. Res, 644) Legislation providing fiscal year 2010 funds for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the federal courts and many other federal government operations - - on the resolution setting the terms for debate of the bill
H.R. 3170 provided fiscal 2010 year funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the federal courts and many other federal government operations. This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill. The rule for H.R. 3170 permitted a limited number of amendments to be offered during consideration of the measure. 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 went through the formality of raising a point of order against the rule and then said he wanted “to plead with the majority party to lift the legislative version of martial law that's been imposed on appropriation bills this year. We're more than halfway through the (appropriation) season and so far we've had, for appropriation bills, more than 700 amendments filed with the Rules Committee. Only 119, or less than 20 percent, have been made in order.” Flake did acknowledge that: “(R)oughly a quarter of them that have been made in order have been my earmark amendments, which I'm pleased for. “Earmark amendments” are those that attempt to remove legislative mandates for particular projects that have been inserted into appropriation bills.
The rationale that Democrats had been expressing for the series of rules limiting amendments on spending bills was that that the House needed to adhere to its schedule of completing those bills in a timely manner. In recent years, Congress had been well behind schedule in completing spending bills, and had sometimes failed to pass all of them before the beginning of the fiscal year they covered.
Referring to that reasoning, Flake argued: “(I)t's not right . . . to bring up the issue of timing, to say, we don't have time to deal with all the amendments that have been offered . . . It wouldn't have taken any extra time . . . We adjourned or we were finished with legislative business by around four o'clock yesterday. We were finished with amendments by five o'clock . . . This isn't an issue of time. But . . . the majority party simply doesn't want to deal with certain amendments.” He added: “(T)hat . . . isn't the legislative process that we're used to here. Traditionally, appropriation bills have been brought to the floor under an open rule.”
Rep Perlmutter (D-CO) was leading the support for the rule. He opposed the technical point of order that Rep. Flake raised, and argued “this point of order is . . . about delaying the bill that is under consideration and about, ultimately, stopping it. I hope my colleagues see through this attempt and will vote ‘yes’' so we can consider this legislation on its merits and not stop it on a procedural motion. Those who oppose the bill can vote against it on final passage. We must consider this rule today, and we must pass this legislation.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 216-213. All two hundred and sixteen “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Thirty-nine other Democrats joined with all one hundred and seventy-four Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to move to debate the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funds for a range of federal government operations.