H.R. 3619 authorized approximately $10 billion in fiscal year 2010 funding for The Coast Guard. It increased the number of military personnel in the Coast Guard by 1,500 to a total of 47,000, and increased the allowable number of officers to 6,700. The legislation also included provisions designed to deal with demonstrated problems in the acquisition of equipment by The Coast Guard.
As with most legislation, the House must first approve a resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill before it can begin formal consideration. These rules had become contentious matters. The Republican minority had been complaining during the congressional session that the Democratic majority was placing restrictions on many of these rules that significantly curtailed the ability of Members to offer amendments. The rule for H.R. 3619 limited the amendments that could be offered to only certain designated ones. This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule.
Rep. Matsui (D-CA) was leading the effort in support of the rule and of the motion to bring it to an immediate vote. She said that H.R. 3619 “will strengthen our nation's Coast Guard by making important investments and key changes now, the benefits of which we will see for years to come.” Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) was leading the Republican minority on the debate of the rule and the motion to bring it to an immediate vote. He said “(W)hile I support this important underlying legislation, I oppose the rule by which it is being brought to the floor.
Diaz-Balart argued: “(T)he last time that a Coast Guard authorization bill was enacted into law, the Republican majority at the time brought the legislation to the floor with a rule that allowed . . . any Member of the House to offer any amendments to the legislation without having to receive the approval of the Rules Committee as long as the amendment was preprinted in the Congressional Record . . . any amendment could be brought forward, but you had to have preprinted it.” He added, “today the (Democratic) majority has . . . decided . . . that the right of Members to offer amendments should be restricted . . . The last time the House considered this legislation . . . we were criticized (by the Democrats, for even requiring that an amendment had to be pre-printed). That was called restrictive. Well, now we have . . . a structured rule; in other words, only those amendments made in order (by the Democratically-controlled Rules Committee) can be considered.”
Diaz Balart concluded his remarks by claiming that this was “another example of how the current majority restricts, unnecessarily and unfortunately, the procedural rights of all Members of this body . . . The tradition . . . of this House for many decades with regard to this legislation . . . that enjoys such widespread and bipartisan support . . . is that Members didn't have to go and beg the Rules Committee for authorization to have their amendments debated . . . .”
Chairwoman Slaughter (D-NY) and the Democratic members of the Rules Committee took the position that they weigh many factors when deciding whether to allow an amendment to be offered, including whether it relates directly to the purpose of the bill, whether it would add to the deficit, and whether it is “logical”. They also claimed that the Republican minority did have numerous opportunities to present its ideas while the committee that developed H.R. 3619 was engaged in its deliberations.
The motion carried by a vote of 236-171. All Two hundred and thirty-six “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Six other Democrats joined all one hundred and sixty-five Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved to an immediate vote on the rule for the bill authorizing fiscal year 2010 funding for The Coast Guard.