This vote was on a motion by Rep. Lewis (R-CA) to send the legislation containing the economic stimulus package back to the Appropriations Committee with instructions to add $36 billion in highway spending and $24 billion in Army Corps of Engineer water construction projects, and to eliminate $164 billion of other new spending that was in the bill.
Rep. Lewis is the senior Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee, and was among the Republicans who led the opposition to the economic stimulus bill on the House floor. His motion was supported by Rep. Mica (R-FL), who is the senior Republican member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over highway and water projects.
Lewis described the highway and water funds that would be added by the instructions as “. . . immediate job-producing activities . . . (that) are absolutely ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure investments that will put Americans back to work now.” He described those programs in which his amendment would cut funding as “. . . untested, newly authorized or newly funded programs . . . that will not be available until fiscal year 2010, and later . . . (and) the most questionable job-creating programs . . . .” Among the funding that would be cut or eliminated by the instructions proposed by Lewis were those for increased rural broadband, for the National Science Foundation, and for energy retrofitting of federal buildings. Lewis claimed that the adoption of his motion would create a bill that was more balanced between spending increases and the greater tax cuts that Republicans favored.
Rep. Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, opposed the motion by first noting that the Republicans had been criticizing the stimulus legislation based on the idea that Democrats were “just throwing money at the problem. That it can't possibly be spent.” He then said: “Yet, they would add some $25 billion to the Corps (of Engineers) budget, despite the fact that the Corps has told us that they can only push out the door about $4 billion in new projects. . . . (The Republicans) have criticized us . . . because they said that we had money in here for infrastructure that couldn't possibly be spent out in the next 2 years. And now they are adding $36 billion more.” Obey went on to argue that the funding cuts included in the motion’s instructions would eliminate programs that would put hundreds of thousands of people to work. He also pointed to the fact that the instructions would cut job training and displaced workers funds, and added: “We should be doubling those funds, not cutting them.
A “motion to recommit with instructions” is a procedural technique to delay or modify legislation. It can only be used by a House member who opposes a measure being considered on the House floor. If the motion is successful, it sends the measure back to the committee that developed the bill and orders it to make specified changes before the measure can be sent back to the full House for reconsideration.”
The vote on the motion was 159 ayes and 270 nays, largely along party lines. Most of the aye votes were cast by House Republicans. However, 31 Republicans joined most of the Democrats in opposing it. The bill was not recommitted and the large proposed spending changes were not made in the stimulus package.