This was a vote on whether the House should table (kill) an appeal of a ruling by the Speaker. That ruling was that a motion by Rep. Heller (R-NV) was out of order. The motion would have recommitted a bill designed to extend the estate tax to committee with instructions to add language eliminating that tax. Most Republican Members were opposed to an extension of the estate tax - - which they had taken to calling the “death tax” - - and the Heller motion was an effort to eliminate the tax.
The ruling of the Speaker had prevented the House from voting on the motion by Rep. Heller. If the Speaker had ruled to permit a vote on the Heller motion to recommit the bill and add his proposed language, and if that motion had prevailed, the estate tax would have effectively been removed from the bill. The reasoning behind the ruling of the Speaker was that the House “pay-as-you-go” rule prohibits the consideration of motions reducing revenues unless there is an offsetting reduction in spending: The motion by Rep. Heller to eliminate the estate tax and the revenue it was projected to generate did not include any spending offset. Rep. Heller appealed the ruling.
The Republican minority had been claiming all through the year that the Democratic majority was not conducting legislative business in a fair manner. Heller picked up on this argument in his statement supporting his appeal of the ruling. He claimed that the Democratic majority “has stacked the rules of the House to try to make it impossible for the minority to offer its preferred approach (to the estate tax issue). We . . . are witnessing . . . again today . . . the rules . . . being used to keep us from offering a full and permanent repeal of the death tax.
Specifically, Heller claimed that the bill he wanted to recommit itself “doesn't even meet the House's own pay-as-you-go rules.” He noted: “The substance of that bill reduced the rate of the estate tax and increased the amount of the estate that would be exempt from the tax.” Heller then argued that these changes “would increase the deficit by more than $230 billion. This begs the question, if it's appropriate for the majority to consider estate tax relief . . . without offsets, in violation of the spirit of pay-as-you-go, then why is it now inappropriate, or out of order, for the minority to provide even more tax relief under their amendment?”
The motion to table the appeal of the ruling carried by a vote of 234-186. All two hundred and thirty-four “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Fifteen other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-one Republicans present and voted “nay”. As a result, the appeal of the ruling of the Speaker that prevented a vote on the Heller motion was killed, and the ruling prevailed. The House therefore did not vote on the Heller motion that would have recommited the legislation with language eliminating the estate tax.