In recent years, Congress had often failed to pass spending bills for fiscal years before the beginning of those fiscal years. To maintain government operations on a temporary basis, Congress had adopted the practice of passing “continuing resolutions”, which kept operations going at their previously-approved levels, until it could pass a spending bill for the new fiscal year. The continuing resolution issue had become contentious, with whatever party was in the minority criticizing the majority party for not being able to get spending bills passed prior to the fiscal year to which they applied.
Among the first appropriation bills for fiscal year 2010 that the House and Senate had each passed was the one that funded the operations of the Legislative Branch. This occurred shortly before the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year. The House Republican minority was concerned that a continuing resolution would be attached to the final Legislative Branch funding bill that would be worked out between the two houses. The attachment of the resolution would occur in the House-Senate conference, where Congress typically works out differences in bills passed by the two Houses. The Republicans wanted the Congress to develop a separate continuing resolution unrelated to the Legislative Branch funding bill. If an unrelated resolution were developed, there would be a separate vote on it. The debate that would occur on this separate vote would give the Republicans an opportunity to focus on the fact that the Democratic majority had not been able to complete the spending bills for the 2010 fiscal year by the beginning of that fiscal year.
There were a number of differences between the House and Senate-passed bills to provide funding for the Legislative Branch. The Senate had sent its version to the House and formally requested that the House agree to that version. A motion was made in the House that it not agree to the Senate version, and that it request a conference.
This motion was technically on whether the House should move to an immediate vote on requesting a conference with the Senate to resolve the differences on the House and Senate-passed spending measures for the Legislative Branch. The Republicans opposed the motion because of their concern that a continuing resolution would be attached in the conference to the Legislative Branch funding bill.
The motion passed by a vote, along almost straight party lines, of 240-171. Two hundred and thirty-nine Democrats and one Republican voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and two Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House formally disagreed with the Senate version of the 2010 fiscal year Legislative Branch funding bill, requested that a conference be held with the Senate to work out a final version of the bill, and no prohibition was adopted against adding a continuing resolution to that final version.