H.R.3293 provided 2010 fiscal year funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill included $161 billion in spending. This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms of debate of the funding bill. The most controversial element of the rule was the language that limited the number of amendments that could be offered to the bill.
Rep Hastings (D-FL), who was leading the support for the rule setting the terms for debate, presented arguments on behalf of the legislation to which the rule related. He said that H.R. 3293, among other things, included provisions “providing much-needed assistance to our vulnerable populations . . . (by helping) families stay warm through the winter by providing (funds for the) low-income energy assistance program . . . (and by increasing) nutrition, transportation and other supportive services for seniors . . . .” Hastings also said “this bill will help build the capacity of our health care system and provide funding for job training in the health care sector, one of the strongest and fastest-growing sectors in our economy.”
The Republican minority had been engaged in an ongoing effort against what they maintained was the unfair practice of the Democratic majority of presenting rules limiting the number of amendments that could be offered on bills, especially spending bills such as H.R. 3288.The Democrats were taking the position that a limitation on the number of amendments was necessitated by the need to keep to a congressional schedule of passing all spending bills in a timely manner. 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.
Rep. Sessions (R-TX) opposed the rule and cited the limitation on the number of amendments it permitted as the primary reason. He said that Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey (D-WI) had imposed “an arbitrary timeline to finish the fiscal year 2010 spending bills which has forced this Congress and the Democrat-run Rules Committee to limit every Republican's and Democrat's chance to offer an amendment on the floor.” He asked, rhetorically: “Why are we doing this for the first time in the history of this Republic? Why won't they allow for the open and honest debate that they called for just a few years ago?”
Sessions went on to say that Republican Members “offered 12 amendments (to this spending bill) to ensure that a thoughtful and constructive debate could take place . . . Yet what happened? Only four were made in order. . . This Democrat Congress, in unprecedented fashion, continues to reject and silence the American public and to muzzle Members on the floor of the House of Representatives . . . .”
Rep. Flake (R-AZ) also complained about the limitation on the number of amendments that the rule permitted. He argued that “(even) if we agree to stay within the time constraints, (the Democratic majority) still won't allow us to substitute the amendments that we would like to offer.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 232-187. All Two hundred and thirty-two “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. One hundred seventy-two Republicans and fifteen Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debating the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.