This was a vote on an amendment that would have eliminated a provision establishing a pilot program in which the National Science Foundation would award cash prizes for innovative research. The provision was part of a bill intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world.
The House first debated H.R. 5116 (which was a bill intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world) on May 13. Republicans offered a motion to recommit that eliminated all new programs established by the bill (including a loan guarantee program for small manufacturers seeking to improve their competitiveness through technological innovation), and froze spending on existing programs at 2010 levels. (A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified. ) The motion to recommit also would have required colleges and universities receiving funds provided by the bill to allow military recruiters on their campuses. In addition, the motion to recommit prohibited federal funds from being used to view, download, or exchange pornography.
The motion to recommit effectively put Democrats in a difficult political position. In order to preserve programs they supported – such as the loan guarantee program described above – they would have to oppose a ban on federal funds from being used to view and disseminate pornography.
The GOP motion to recommit passed 292-126, with 121 Democrats voting “yea” with Republicans. Since Republicans had succeeded in making such drastic changes to the bill, Democratic leaders then withdrew the legislation from the House floor without holding a vote on final passage. The Democratic leadership then brought a scaled-down version of the bill (designed to attract Republican support) to the floor under suspension of the rules; this procedure prohibits the minority party from offering any amendments or a motion to recommit. It also requires, however, that bills receive a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Although the scaled-down version bill included a number of the proposals from the GOP motion to recommit – including the anti-pornography language – most Republicans still voted against the measure, denying it the two-thirds majority required for passage.
Since the House had never voted on passage of H.R. 5116 on May 13 following the successful motion to recommit, House rules allowed Democratic leaders to bring the bill up again as “unfinished business.” Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) then demanded that the motion to recommit be divided into different sections (this rarely used procedure is known as “dividing the question”). Thus, the motion to recommit was split into nine separate parts. Roll call votes were held on six of the nine sections. (No roll call vote was requested on the remaining three sections.) This vote was on the first section, which sought to eliminate National Science Foundation cash awards for innovative research.
No debate occurred on any sections of the GOP motion to recommit. During debate on the motion to recommit on May 13, however, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) made clear that the GOP motion to recommit sought to eliminate all new programs in the bill because Republicans viewed them as fiscally irresponsible: “The motion to recommit addresses the biggest concern I, and many of the members on this side of the aisle, have with the legislation, which is the excessive spending. It will address this issue by…striking the new programs in the bill…”
Gordon argued that increasing funding for innovative research was essential with respect to job creation and economic growth: “…The last few years, you've seen that the public sector dollars have been stagnant in terms of our investment in research and development. And on the private sector level, they've actually gone down. Why does this matter? Because the rest of the world is increasing their investments in research and development, and the importance to us here in this country is that 50 percent of the growth in the GDP in our Nation since World War II has been a result of research and development.”
The House rejected this section of the GOP motion to recommit by a vote of 175-243. 170 Republicans and 5 Democrats voted “yea.” 242 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected the section of the GOP motion to recommit that would have eliminated a pilot program in which the National Science Foundation would award cash prizes for innovative research.