H.R. 2996 provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debate on the bill included limitations on the number of amendments that were in order to be offered to it. This was a vote on the rule.
Rep. Dicks (D-WA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 2996 said he would have preferred an “open rule” that permitted unlimited amendments. However, he claimed that the goal of completing this and all the other spending bills in a timely manner would be threatened by the time consumed if every Member were able to offer an amendment to every spending bill. Dicks said that “we have to remember that we've got to get these 12 (spending) bills passed. The greatest sin, in my judgment, is to not do our work; and there are some people in this House who don't want to see the work get done because then they can point the finger of failure at the majority.”
Dicks also said that the (Democratic) leadership “talked to (Minority Leader) Boehner. They talked to (Appropriations Committee Ranking Republican) Lewis . . . And they were rebuffed . . . So we had no choice but to go to the Rules Committee and get a structured rule . . . It takes both sides here to cooperate and to realize that we have to limit the number of amendments, either by an agreement or by a structured rule.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC) was leading the opposition for the Republicans to the rule. She argued that, because of its restrictive terms, “both sides of the aisle are being denied the ability to offer amendments.” Foxx also argued that H.R. 2996 “is filled with wasteful spending” and suggested that Members should be permitted to offer amendments to reduce its funding levels. She gave as an example the “astounding 38 percent increase in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.” Foxx added that the total amount in the bill “is a 17 percent overall increase in funding from last year's bill, and most programs are increased not only above the 2009 levels, but also above the levels the President requested.”
Foxx also noted that the bill “contains also several hundred earmarks.” An earmark is a legislatively mandated grant or project inserted at the request of an individual Member in a funding bill. She said: “(T)he earmark system is flawed. And we know that even some of the earmarks in this bill have had questions raised about them. This legislation contains several giveaways for and preferential treatment to green companies in order to promote the green climate. This bill applies Davis-Bacon, (requiring the payment of prevailing wages on federal projects), which will create wasteful spending that we do not need to have.” She concluded by asking Members “to vote against this rule in order to allow this body to appropriately and adequately offer their ideas and engage in the debate that our constituents deserve.”
Rep. Polis (D-CO), who was leading the support for the rule, responded by noting that the rule “makes in order 12 Republican amendments and indeed only . . . two Democratic amendments. I think it is fair to both parties. Included in the allowed amendments are five earmark amendments.” Rep. Foxx answered by arguing “there are only 60 members on the Appropriations Committee, which means that only 60 out of 435 Members in this body had the opportunity to amend the bill that's under consideration here (during the sessions at which the committee developed the bill). If we had an open rule, every Member would have had that opportunity . . . (Rep. Polis) said only (two) Democrat amendments (were) accepted and 12 Republican amendments. But that reinforces the point that even Members of his own party were turned away from offering amendments, and that isn't right.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 238-184. Two hundred and thirty-seven Democrats and one Republican voted “aye”. One hundred and seventy-two Republicans and twelve Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to move to debate the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.