This was on a motion that the House immediately vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating a bill that added parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. That System consists of rivers or parts of rives that have unique beauty, recreational or environmental value, historic or cultural significance or some other attribute deemed to be worth preserving. No component of the System can be dammed or impeded in any way.
As with most significant bills, the House had to approve a rule setting the terms for its debate before the bill could be formally considered. The rules for all bills are established by the House Rules Committee. The rule for this bill did not permit any amendments to be offered on the House floor. During the congressional session, the Republican minority had been continually arguing against rules, such as this one, that limited or prohibited amendments to be offered to individual bills.
Rep. Cardoza (D-CA), was leading the support for the rule and for bringing it to an immediate vote. He noted that “the Molalla River is an essential wildlife area for the pileated woodpecker and both golden and bald eagles. It is also within an hour's drive of the Portland and Salem metropolitan areas and provides significant recreational opportunities for fishing, hunting, canoeing, kayaking, white-water rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, camping, picnicking, swimming and diving . . . (It draws) over 65,000 visitors annually (and) . . . served as both a trail for indigenous Molalla Indians and as a vital trade route between pioneers in Oregon.”
Rep. Bishop (UT) spoke against rule and the motion to bring it to a vote. The primary reason for his opposition was that the Rules Committee had rejected his effort to have the rule permit him to offer amendments to the bill. His amendments would have excluded 400 acres near the Molalla River from the System; this would have allowed the state of Oregon to do logging on those 400 acres.
Bishop argued that “in the scope of things, (400 acres is) an insignificant number. . . What is significant, though, is the concept behind (not permitting me to offer the amendment), because it represents a larger, more pernicious issue that simply (says) the leaders of this Congress are failing.” Bishop noted that Oregon could have used the proceeds of the logging on the 400 acres to help fund its public education system. He claimed “there is a unique correlation to the amount of federal land that is owned (in a state) and the inability of states to fund their public education system . . . .”
Bishop acknowledged that the language of his amendment was technically not “germane” to the subject of a bill, and that House regulations formally do not permit amendments that are not germane to be offered. His amendments would have also created a reduction in revenues that were not compensated by a corresponding increased in revenue - - which also violated House rules. However, he then claimed: “Our germaneness rule is used more in its absence than in its regulation”. He said that the real reason it was not permitted was the decision of the “leadership of this Congress (which) was wrong . . . The Rules Committee made this amendment out of order. I recognize that they can justify that on the grounds of germaneness. They could have just as easily (allowed a non-germane amendment) . . . We do it all the time . . . I recognize that the Rules Committee will take its orders from leadership.” Bishop concluded by claiming that the House leadership “put kids at a lesser priority than other protected kinds of issues.”
The motion to vote immediately on the rule carried by a vote of 241-176 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred and forty-one “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Five other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-one Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved to an immediate vote on the resolution setting the terms for debating the legislation adding parts of the Molalla River in Oregon to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.