This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for House debate of H.R. 2920, the “Pay-As-You-Go” Act. The Act required that any future change in the law reducing federal revenues or increasing federal spending be fully offset by other revenue increases or spending reductions. The “Pay-As-You-Go”Act also included a provision requiring an automatic reduction in federal spending in the event that the legislation was violated.
Rep. Arcuri (D-NY), was leading the effort on behalf of the rule. Referring to the substance of the Pay-As-You-Go-Act, he said “(W)e in Congress must be forced to balance our spending the same way that every American family does. We should not spend what we cannot afford. In order to spend a dollar, we must find a dollar either in savings or in new revenue.” Arcuri claimed that the Act “will force a serious examination of wasteful subsidies in the budget and of tax loopholes that can be eliminated to offset more worthwhile programs.” Anticipating Republican criticism that the bill was not strong enough, he said “every journey is completed one step at a time. This bill is just a first step. It is part of a clearly delineated path toward fiscal responsibility.”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) was leading the Republican opposition to the rule and the “Pay-As-You-Go” Act. He first noted that the federal deficit for the current fiscal year had already exceeded one trillion dollars. Dreier then said the, because of the severe economic downturn, Americans “are spending less; they're saving more; they're paying off their debts; and they're asking themselves, Why is my government doing precisely the opposite?” Among Dreier’s specific criticisms of the Act was that it would only deal with automatic spending programs, and would leave out the 40% of the budget that is discretionary; he also said that its terms would effectively prevent Congress from enacting tax reductions.
Rep. Dreier went on to claim that “the Democratic leadership wants to give the appearance of an interest in fiscal responsibility” He gave as support for his claims the fact that the Democratic-controlled Congress claimed it had adopted pay-as-you-go rules in 2007 when the deficit was $162 billion, and it had since “skyrocketed” to more than one trillion dollars. Rep Scalise (R-LA) also opposed the rule and the underlying bill. He said there was a major flaw in the current “pay-as-you-go” regulations because they had been waived on twelve different occasions. Scalise also criticized the rule for H.R. 2920 because it did not allow him to offer an amendment that he said would improve the measure.
The resolution passed by a vote of 243-182. All two hundred and forty-three “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Six other Democrats joined one hundred and seventy-six Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin its formal consideration of the “Pay-As-You-Go” Act.