This was a vote on a motion to recommit that would have guaranteed that all military personnel would be paid through September 30, 2011, even in the event that the federal government shut down. A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. This motion to recommit was offered to legislation funding federal government programs and agencies for one week and cutting $12 billion from a number of domestic programs, including home heating assistance for low income Americans as well as clean water programs.
This vote took place the day before the federal government was set to run out money—and shut down entirely. The possibility of a government shutdown was the result of a sharp disagreement between House Republicans and Senate Democrats—as well as President Obama—over spending levels for government programs. Democrats had agreed to enact more than $30 billion in budget cuts, but Republicans had insisted on at least $60 billion. While President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) negotiated a compromise on federal spending, the House brought up this temporary government funding measure.
Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY) urged support for this motion to recommit: “There is no group who deserves our support more than the members of the armed services. As a veteran myself, I recognize the implications of failing to pay those members of the armed services who have given their time, their energy, their blood and, in many cases, their lives in support of our freedom, the freedom that allows us to be here today and to have this heated debate over the direction of our country. When I look around at what will happen if we fail to pass this motion, we know that the President has indicated he will veto the current underlying legislation, which means in effect we will be unable to pay our military men and women. The economic consequences to the communities in which our military men and women reside--in my case Fort Drum, as well as many active Reserve units in my district--would be horrific. They will not buy gasoline, they will not buy groceries, they will not buy clothes. There are tremendous economic consequences to the actions that we have failed to take.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) opposed this motion to recommit: “…This procedural motion is nothing more than a dilatory tactic which comes at a time when we can least afford those types of things. Now is the time to act, not partake in political games. Our debate should be not about procedure. It should be about doing our job. It should be about funding our troops, about keeping our government running, and saving the taxpayer money….This motion is purely a political gesture and should be defeated. I think all members should know…this [underlying] bill is not a political tactic. The real fact is that if you vote against this bill, you are voting against the troops who are engaged in three wars.”
The House rejected this motion to recommit by a vote of 191-236. All 190 Democrats present and 1 Republican voted “yea.” 236 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected a motion to recommit that would have guaranteed that all military personnel would be paid through September 30, 2011, even in the event that the federal government shut down.