This was a vote on tabling (killing) a Democratic effort to appeal the Speaker’s ruling that a Democratic motion continuing to fund federal government programs and agencies at current levels for one week violated House rules.
The House had been debating legislation overturning federal “network neutrality” rules. (“Network Neutrality” regulations prohibit Internet service companies from charging higher fees to online content providers for service that enables their web sites to download more quickly. For example, Internet service providers such as AT&T and Verizon could offer faster service to web sites that could afford to pay for it. Web sites that could not afford to pay for this service, however, would download more slowly. Thus, network neutrality rules were intended to prevent the evolution of a “two-tiered” Internet system. Under such a system, content providers with more money would thrive as a result of being able to pay for service that allowed their websites to download quickly. Less affluent web site owners, meanwhile, could see their traffic slow to a crawl.)_
When this vote occurred, however, the federal government was just hours away from running out of money and shutting 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.
During debate on the network neutrality bill, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) offered a motion to recommit that would have continued to fund the federal government for one week. (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.) Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) raised a procedural objection (known as a “point of order”) against Hoyer’s motion to recommit, arguing that it violated House rules because it was unrelated, or “not germane” to the underlying network neutrality bill. The Speaker ruled that Hoyer’s motion violated House rules. Hoyer then appealed Speaker’s ruling. Finally, Walden made a motion to table (kill) Hoyer’s appeal.
Walden argued: “ I am insisting on my…point of order because we are not going to violate the House rules. The motion [to recommit] is not in order because it violates…the Rules of the House. It is not germane to the resolution [underlying legislation] before us.”
Hoyer said: “This…[motion] speaks directly to keeping the government of the United States operating for the next 7 days, keeping our men and women in the Armed Forces paid for that week, making sure that every other necessary service for government is available to the American people for the next 7 days. And it is the only vehicle that now appears to be viable to accomplish that objective. And as a result…I believe this is not only in order; it is imperative that we pass this motion to recommit. And I would urge the Speaker to find it in order.”
The House tabled (killed) Hoyer’s appeal of the Speaker’s ruling—effectively killing his motion to recommit--by a vote of 235-181. All 235 Republicans present voted “yea.” All 181 Democrats present voted “nay.” As a result, the House effectively blocked a final vote on a Democratic motion that would have continued to fund federal government programs and agencies at current levels for one week, and the network neutrality bill remained unchanged.