This was a vote on a bill to establish the Castle Nugent estate in St. Croix (in the Virgin Islands) as a "national historic site." Such sites are owned by the federal government and managed by the National Park Service. The bill was introduced by Del. Donna Christensen (D-VI). Castle Nugent is a historic plantation overseer’s estate that dates back to the 1700s. The site spans approximately 2,900 acres of land.
The House had previously considered the bill under a procedure known as "suspension of the rules." Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority. While a majority of members voted in favor of the bill, it did not receive the two-thirds majority required for passage. Thus, Democrats rescheduled the measure for floor debate under a closed rule prohibiting amendments.
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), the chairman of the committee that drafter the legislation, argued in favor of the bill, and praised the family that had owned the land for generations: "The pending legislation establishes the Castle Nugent National Historic Site on the island of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Castle Nugent area possesses a wide range of historic resources, including the remnants of small Danish cotton, sugar, indigo, and cattle plantations. Pre-Columbian archaeological sites also exist on the property. The cattle ranch there is one of the oldest in the West Indies. The diverse and undisturbed natural resources of the site include the most substantial black mangrove stand left in the Virgin Islands, sea turtle nesting areas, large and healthy coral reefs, and a lagoon that is home to many different species of birds and wildlife….The proposed park would include 2,900 acres of privately owned ranch lands as well as 8,600 acres of submerged lands owned by the Government of the Virgin Islands. The family which owns the majority of the site has fought off aggressive developers for years, seeking instead to have their land preserved for future generations to enjoy."
Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) criticized the bill as fiscally irresponsible: "With 10 percent unemployment nationwide and with millions of Americans without jobs and the fact that we are running record budget deficits and the public debt is skyrocketing, now is not the time to potentially spend up to $50 million of the taxpayers' money to buy nearly 3,000 acres of beachfront property on a Caribbean island. And on top of that, it will probably cost an estimate of $1 million a year to maintain. Madam Speaker, we can't afford the price tag for a new park in St. Croix, just as many Americans will never be able to afford a visit there."
The House passed the bill by a vote of 240-175. 240 Democrats voted yea. All 171 Republicans present and 4 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation to establish the Castle Nugent estate in the Virgin Islands as a "national historic site" to be maintained by the National Park Service.