This was a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and pass legislation that would have eliminated the Election Assistance Commission, which provides federal funding and guidance to states to administer elections.
Motions to suspend the rules limit time allowed for debate, and prohibit members from offering amendments. A two-thirds majority vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) urged support for the bill: “As we move forward on the difficult job of securing our nation's financial future, the Congress will face many difficult decisions. Programs will have to be cut, and some even eliminated. All of those programs are there because someone wants them. We have to look carefully at each one and decide whether the benefit it creates is worth the cost of maintaining it. After more than 2 years of hearings, investigations and oversight, the Committee on House Administration has identified not just a program but a federal agency that we cannot justify to the taxpayers. That agency, the Election Assistance Commission [EAC], should be eliminated….One of the primary reasons the EAC was created was to distribute money to States to update voting equipment and voter registration systems. The EAC has accomplished that, paying out over $3 billion to States for those purposes. With our deep debt and deficit, there almost certainly will be no more money for the EAC to distribute, meaning that that function is complete.”
Rep. Charles Gonzalez (D-TX) opposed the bill: “The EAC doesn't run elections. That's not its job. It assists the state and local election officials so that they can run elections better and for less. And local election officials have written in from across the country in praise of the EAC and opposition to this bill. H.R. 672 would eliminate the one federal agency that's focused on finding best practices for elections. That will make it that much harder for the supervisor of elections in Palm Beach County, Florida, to learn that the registrar of voters in Fresno County, California, figured out a way to process paper ballots so they would run more smoothly, representing a 25 percent savings in election costs. In my home, Bexar County, the elections administrator, Jacqui Callanen, learned from an EAC instructional video a new technique that will save our county $100,000 per year. That's $100,000 in savings for one county, from one EAC instructional video, and we have more than 8,000 election jurisdictions in the United States.”
The vote on this bill was 235-187. All 235 Republicans voted “yea.” All 187 Democrats present voted “nay.” While a majority of members voted in favor of this bill, a two-thirds majority vote in required for passage under suspension of the rules. As a result, the House rejected legislation that would have eliminated the Election Assistance Commission, which provides federal funding and guidance to states to administer elections. Republican leaders, however, remained free to bring the bill up again under a different process requiring only a simple majority vote for passage.