This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. If passed, this particular procedural motion--known as the “previous question"--effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote.
Shortly after President Obama was sworn into office in 2009, the EPA defined greenhouse gases as a pollutant that endangered public health, thus laying the groundwork to regulate those gases under existing clean air laws. The underlying bill would have prohibited the EPA from carrying out such regulation.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “H.R. 910 [the underlying bill] prohibits the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act…In short, the underlying bill clarifies that the Clean Air Act is not a vehicle for regulatory taxing. The decision about whether and how to regulate greenhouse gases should be made by Congress and only by Congress, not the regulatory body of a President who wishes to place his overriding answers on unelected bureaucrats to fulfill this role.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) opposed the resolution and the underlying bill: “Despite indisputable scientific evidence, the Republicans are seeking to bar the Environmental Protection Agency from protecting Americans' health and safety from what the scientific consensus agrees is the worst environmental threat in the world's history: global climate change. It's akin to telling Homeland Security to stop protecting the homeland. It denies scientific proof and logic. Even the Supreme Court stated that the EPA has a responsibility to act to keep the public safe. We're witnessing nothing less today than a full assault on four decades of progress in protecting Americans from environmental dangers.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 266-158. All 238 Republicans present and 28 Democrats voted “yea.” 158 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.