What: All Issues : Fair Taxation : Corporate Tax Breaks, General : H. Res. 161, providing for floor consideration of a small-business tax bill (H.R. 976) under suspension of the rules/On ordering the previous question (2007 house Roll Call 100)
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H. Res. 161, providing for floor consideration of a small-business tax bill (H.R. 976) under suspension of the rules/On ordering the previous question
house Roll Call 100     Feb 16, 2007
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This vote dealt with the rules for debate for a $1.3 billion package of small-business tax breaks. More specifically, the vote was on a parliamentary procedure to end debate as to whether the House would take up the legislation under suspension of normal rules.

The small-business tax break package was actually part of an elaborate dance between the House, the Senate and the White House over a bill to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour over the next two years. The House passed a minimum wage bill in January that fell short of the 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass Senate. Republicans in the Senate wanted to include amendments giving tax breaks to small businesses, which Republicans insist will be hard-hit by an increase in the minimum wage.

Since all bills dealing with revenue (which includes tax measures) are constitutionally required to originate in the House, the legislative process had to begin anew in that chamber. This small-business tax relief bill was understood in both chambers as the likely vehicle for a Senate-passed version of the legislation that would eventually include both a minimum wage hike and tax breaks for small businesses. Differences in the House and Senate's respective versions then were expected to be worked out in conference committee.

The question at hand was whether the House would take the bill up under what's known as suspension of the rules, basically a time-saving method used for relatively noncontroversial legislation that is all but assured of passage. Suspending the rules means that the measure can't be amended and debate is limited to forty minutes on each side. Bills taken up under suspension of the normal House rules require a two-thirds majority for passage.

Republicans were opposed to bringing up the measure under suspension of the rules, which permits expeditious passage, because of their underlying opposition to the minimum wage hike, which they said would hurt small businesses.

This vote - which needed a simple majority to pass -- was a motion ordering the previous question, which is a parliamentary maneuver that effectively ends debate, prohibits amendment and moves the House to a vote for an up-or-down of the resolution under consideration, in this case the "rules package" for the small-business tax bill. If the motion had been defeated, the House in effect turns control of the floor over to the lawmaker who led the opposition to the question at hand, usually a member of the minority party. As such, motions to order the previous question are usually party-line votes, and the majority party almost always prevails.

Such was the case for this vote, and all Republicans present but one voted against the measure and all Democrats present but five voted for it, and the motion passed 218-188. Thus, a measure outlining the rules of consideration for taking up a small-business tax relief bill under suspension of the rules passed the House on a party-line vote, brining the legislation one step closer to consideration in the House.

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