This was on whether the House should move to an immediate vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the conference report containing the legislation providing nearly $450 billion in fiscal year 2010 funding for several federal departments.
The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 3288, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between both bodies. The original version of the legislation did provide funding only for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. Since fiscal year 2010 was well under way, the Democratic majority decided to add 2010 funding for several other departments to the legislation during the conference.
Most conference reports, like most bills, require the approval of a resolution or “rule” setting the terms for their debate, before they can be considered by the House. This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule setting the terms for debating this conference report.
Rep. McGovern (D-MA) was leading the support for the rule and for the motion to bring the rule to an immediate vote. He began his statement in support by acknowledging that he had “a slightly different perspective on the appropriations (or funding) process than I did 3 years ago. Then, in the minority, I questioned why the then-Republican majority wasn't able to finish their bills on time. I realize now that in many cases, finishing the bills in a timely fashion wasn't always the fault of the majority in the House but rather a result of the dysfunction in the Senate . . . this House, this Democratic majority, did our job. We passed every single bill in a timely way and we did so responsibly, and in many cases joined by many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.”
McGovern then suggested that the House Republicans were still going to “protest about the process here, that this bill is made up of six bills . . . (B)ut we are essentially reaffirming votes that have already been taken on issues that have already been previously debated and discussed.” McGovern went on to describe the money for all the departments that was provided in the legislation as “critical funding”. He argued that all the bills incorporated in this one piece of legislation “are about priorities. They are about values. They show who we are as a Congress, and I stand by the values articulated in these bills . . . I see these bills as an opportunity to reverse years of neglect . . . to our roads and our bridges . . . our lower income neighbors and . . . education system, and . . . our veterans.”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) was leading the opposition to the rule. He first complained that the rule permitted only one hour of debate for this “$500 billion measure.” He then argued that “when virtually everyone . . . (is) engaged in cutting back spending . . . (W)e've seen an . . . 85 percent increase (in nondefense discretionary spending) at a time when families across this country are working very hard to make ends meet.” Dreier noted: “It's not unusual for our work on the federal budget to extend beyond the close of the fiscal year. It's not unprecedented to consider several appropriations bills in one package . . . (T)he task of spending the taxpayers' money . . . demands a great deal of deliberation, which is not always compatible with setting timetables . . . getting it right is more important than getting it done (quickly).
Dreier then complained that the Democratic majority “shut out real debate . . . (and) made the unprecedented move of closing down the entire appropriations process” on the grounds that it was necessary to complete the spending bills in a timely manner. He concluded that: “What we have gotten is . . . neither timely nor deliberative action (and) . . . bad process begets bad substance.”
The motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the legislation carried by a vote of 227-187. All two hundred and twenty-seven “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Seventeen other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the legislation providing fiscal year 2010 funding for several federal departments.