This was on a motion that effectively would allow the House to consider immediately the resolution setting the terms for debating financial reform legislation. That legislation was designed to prevent the kind of major financial crisis that had recently occurred, and to implement the most significant regulatory reform of the financial industry since the Great Depression. The Rules Committee develops the resolution setting the terms for debating all significant legislation. Each resolution must be approved before the House can consider the legislation to which it relates.
There is a House regulation preventing any such resolution from being considered on the same day as it is submitted by the Rules Committee. That regulation may ordinarily be waived by a two-thirds vote. The Democratic majority wanted to consider the resolution setting the terms for debating the financial reform bill on the same day as it had been submitted by the Rules Committee. However, there was sufficient opposition to prevent a two-thirds waiver vote. The purpose of this motion was to eliminate the application of that two-thirds vote requirement to the rule on the financial reform bill.
Rep. Hastings (D-FL) was leading the effort in support of the motion. He said that he hoped: “Members on both sides of the aisle will support this (waiver) so that we can move quickly to enact this critically important (financial regulation) legislation.” Hastings referenced the merits of the legislation to buttress his argument in support of the waiver. He said “the (recent) financial crisis has shown that the deregulation or even the lack of regulation over financial firms is not an option anymore. For the first time ever, this legislation provides key provisions that will mandate oversight of certain parts of the United States financial system.” Hastings concluded his remarks by claiming that the reform legislation would “provide American consumers with long overdue safeguards and reflects the Congress's commitment to putting the needs of the American people before those of Wall Street.”
Rep. Sessions (R-TX) led the opposition to the motion. He based his opposition both on procedural considerations and on the substance of the bill to which the rule setting the terms for debate applied. Sessions first quoted a statement made three years earlier when the Republican controlled the House by Rep. McGovern (D-MA), a member of the Rules Committee. That statement referred to “this martial law rule” and “the outrageous process that continues to plague this House.” The McGovern quote also complained about “the (House) leadership . . . once again (ignoring) the rules of the House and the precedents and traditions of this House. Martial law is no way to run a democracy, no matter what your ideology, no matter what your party affiliation.''
Sessions said a “ ‘martial law rule’ . . . is what we're being asked to consider here today. We're being asked to consider this outrageous process on the House floor today, yet the Democratic Party knows it's not the right thing to do. It was not right then and it's not right now.”
Sessions then dealt with the substance of the financial regulation legislation. He called it a “monstrous financial reform package (that) . . .make(s) federal bailout authority permanent, and allow(s) bureaucrats to determine the types of financial products that will be made available to consumers and set(s) the salaries of private sector employees.” He went on to argue that the bill “does nothing to help create private sector jobs or to provide financial relief to Americans in these tough times, which should be Congress's number one priority.”
The motion to waive the regulation passed by a vote of 239-183. All two hundred and thirty-nine “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Twelve other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-one Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to take up the resolution, setting the terms for debating the major financial regulation, on the same day as it was submitted by the Rules Committee.