The House and Senate had passed different versions of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Agriculture and for the Food and Drug Administration. As is usual procedure in such situations, a conference was held between representatives of the two bodies to develop a final version of the bill. After a final version is developed, it must then be approved by each body. The bill contained $2.7 billion more than the equivalent legislation provided in fiscal year 2009.
This was on a motion to move immediately to a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for House debate of the final version of the 2010 Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration funding bill. Under the rule, any point of order that could be made against the conference report under usual House procedures was waived.
Rep. McGovern (D-MA), anticipating the kind of criticisms that the Republican minority had made against the procedure that had been used by the Democratic majority for a series of spending bills, said that this funding bill had gone “through the regular order.” He also said he anticipated that he would “hear from my friends on the other side . . . about how this bill spends too much money and that this increase (in spending) is simply unnecessary, especially during these difficult economic times.”
In response to the anticipated remarks about the increased funding level, McGovern argued “this increase is needed now more than ever. Just look at where the increases in this bill are targeted: to the areas of nutrition, international food assistance, and food and drug safety. Simply, these increases go to protect our food supply and to provide food for those who either cannot afford it or do not have access to it. It is unconscionable to me that anyone can complain about helping people in need during these tough economic times. Hunger is a real problem in America, and this bill provides funding that keeps the safety net intact . . . I, for one, make no apologies for these increases in food and nutrition programs. We have a moral obligation to step up to the plate to help the most vulnerable people during these difficult times.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC) was leading the Republican side in opposing the rule and this motion to bring the rule to a vote. She repeated a complaint that the Republican minority had consistently made during the debate on spending bills, that the Democrats “took unprecedented steps to silence both the minority and their own Democrat colleagues by offering all appropriations bills under (a) closed rule that restricted the offering of amendments.” Foxx argued that “(T)his has consistently eliminated the ability for Members to speak up for how their constituents believe their money should be spent. This is not the way the House should be operating, and we want to express again our concern about this . . . .”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) expressed his opposition to the motion calling for a vote on the rule, to the rule, and to the funding bill itself. He first said that he shared the concerns expressed by Rep. McGovern about child nutrition and called it “a very high priority.” He added that “anyone who tries to characterize those of us who are opposed to this conference report as being opposed to child nutrition is totally off base.” Dreier also characterized as a “nonstarter” what he called “the tired old argument that somehow those of us who are Republicans want to throw children out in the street and have them starve . . . .”
Dreier noted the increases in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration 2010 funding bill over the 2009 levels, saying that “every single line item (in it) has . . . an increase”. He then argued “we can have that strong commitment, as we do in a bipartisan way, to nutrition. There are other areas where cuts can be made.”
The motion carried by a vote of 237-180. All two hundred and thirty-seven “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Eleven other Democrats joined all one hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and voted “aye”. As a result the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for formal debate of the final version of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.