This was a vote on final passage of legislation which provided that if the Senate failed to pass a bill by April 6, 2011) funding the federal government through September 2011, a House-passed government funding bill would be “deemed” current law.
In February, the House of Representatives passed legislation funding the federal government through September 2011 and cutting $61 billion from federal programs. The Democratic-controlled Senate had rejected that legislation. In addition, President Obama had threatened to veto it. In response, the Republican-controlled House drafted a bill—known as H.R. 1255—that would “deem” the House government-funding bill to have been enacted if the Senate failed to pass a government funding measure. In addition, H.R. 1255 barred members of Congress from receiving paychecks during a government shutdown.
Democrats argued that legislation in which the House “deemed” a bill that had never passed the Senate to be the law of the land was blatantly unconstitutional. Republicans contended that, since the underlying bill (H.R. 1255) would have to be passed by the Senate in order for the government-funding bill (H.R. 1) to become law, the H.R. 1255 was constitutional. The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez explained:
… If the Senate were to pass H.R. 1255 (and if the president were to sign it), the Senate would be determining its own rules for how H.R. 1 would become law (i.e., by the Senate not passing its own funding bill by April 6). So, that would be in accordance with the Constitution, the House Republicans’ argument goes.
In order for H.R. 1255 -- the measure stating that H.R. 1 can become law through only a vote of the House -- to become law, H.R. 1255 would have to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by the president.
Nothing will happen if H.R. 1255 is only taken up by the House and not the Senate.
What it all boils down to is that the provision calling for H.R. 1 to become the “law of the land” (as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) termed it Wednesday) is moot unless the new measure is approved by both the Senate and the president — an unlikely prospect.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) urged support for the bill: “America averages now trillion-dollar deficits. We borrow nearly 40 cents of every dollar we spend. Given the fiscal cloud that hangs over our country, it is reckless to assume we can live pain-free forever. Sooner or later, something has to give.… We made clear that only by putting federal spending on a sustainable trajectory could we create the conditions necessary for growth and job creation….we passed H.R. 1 to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year and save taxpayers $61 billion relative to current spending….we've practically begged President Obama and Senate Democrats to get serious and come to the table with a legitimate proposal. But we got nothing in return. No legislation. No credible plan to cut spending….Today, we are bringing a bill to the floor that makes clear that continued inaction on the part of the Senate Democratic majority is simply unacceptable.
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN) also supported this bill: “I've worked tirelessly with my colleagues to pass a continuing resolution [government funding bill] that saves taxpayers money and keeps the government running, while the other body, as we continue to hear, has done nothing but complain. Are they blind? Are they deaf? Do they not see, do they not hear what the rest of the people in this country see and here in terms of this country's financial crisis, in terms of this country's debt, in terms of what we're doing to our children and grandchildren by continuing to do nothing?...we've waited 41 days for them to send us a funding bill, and we've got nothing. At least the members who will be voting for this bill, who will be voting in favor of this bill, are showing leadership, are showing the American people that we care about the future of this country and that we do care about jobs.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) opposed the bill: “…Once again, instead of working to create jobs, grow the economy, reduce the deficit and strengthen the middle class, the majority is spending its time engaged in ideological lawlessness disrespectful of the U.S. Constitution, and all because of their political base and to benefit their political base….The House cannot simply close their eyes, pretend that the Senate and the President have passed and signed the bill into law. It does not work that way. When a bill actually passes the Senate, the Senate has actually passed the bill. And when the President picks up a pen and puts his name on it, and not a second before, that bill has been signed into law. No amount of magical thinking can change these simple facts.”
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) mocked the Republican supporters of this bill, and read from a children’s book (entitled “House Mouse, Senate Mouse”) explaining how a bill becomes a law: “I brought you this, `House Mouse, Senate Mouse,' which is sold in the gift shop to teach children how to understand the Constitution, and permit me to read:`It's the floor of each Chamber of the Senate and House where each Senator and each Congress mouse gets to vote on the bill, and if enough do, if enough do, this president signs it if he likes to.' Well, the Senate mice haven't passed this [bill] yet. Perhaps if these were the rules that the Republicans had to follow--it's a much thinner book and it rhymes--maybe you'd get it right, but this is not the Constitution.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 221-202. Voting “yea” were 221 Republicans. All 187 Democrats present and 15 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation which provided that if the Senate failed to pass a bill funding the federal government through September 2011, a House-passed government funding bill would be “deemed” current law.