This was a procedural vote on a resolution allowing the House of Representatives to bring up financial regulatory reform legislation. If passed, this particular procedural motion -- known as the “previous question" -- effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
Normally, the House Rules Committee passes a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments may be offered to bills. The full House then votes on that resolution. Following passage of the resolution, the chamber begins debate on the underlying bill. House rules, however, prohibit the full House from voting on such a resolution until the day after it passes the Rules Committee. In order for the House to pass a resolution on the same day it was passed by the committee, it must receive a two-thirds majority vote.
Occasionally, the House circumvents this requirement by passing what is known as a “same-day rule.” A same-day rule is a resolution that waives the two-thirds majority vote requirement, and allows for passage with a simple majority vote. Under this procedure, the House first passes the same-day rule (which waives the two-thirds majority vote requirement). Following the vote on the same day rule, the House then passes the resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments to the underlying bill. After passing that resolution, the House can begin debate on the underlying bill. Democratic leaders used this “same-day rule” procedure for a conference report [see an explanation of conference reports in the paragraph below] on financial regulatory reform legislation, as well as a separate bill to extend unemployment insurance for laid-off workers.
The House and Senate had passed different versions of financial regulatory reform legislation. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of members of both bodies, and a conference report is developed. That report then must be passed by both Houses before it is sent to the president to be signed into law.
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) urged support for the same day rule: “This bill allows for clear actions, up-or-down votes on the conference report to prevent Wall Street from melting down like it did 2 years ago and a bill to provide unemployment compensation to people who have lost their jobs who cannot find work in this economy.…these are clear-cut choices. Either you support fixing Wall Street or you don't. Do you believe unemployed Americans looking for work should receive unemployment benefits to help them pay for their mortgages, utilities, and food for their families or do you not?”
Rep. Pete Sessions criticized the Democrats’ use of the same-day rule procedure: “I remember just a few short years ago when our Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] said that she would run a House that was the most honest, open, and ethical Congress. I have yet to see evidence of that these last few years. As a matter of fact, week after week after week I see…unprecedented shenanigans related to bringing legislation to the floor, and a closed process.”
The House agreed to the motion ordering the previous question on the same day rule by a vote of 243-182. 242 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “yea.” 173 Republicans and 9 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution allowing the chamber to bring up financial regulatory reform legislation later that day.