H.R. 2847 provided funds for the 2010 fiscal year for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and for federal science and other programs. The bill, among other things, expanded funding for criminal justice programs, and provided for expanded scientific research, including programs to study climate change. The resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill limited the number of amendments that could be offered to it, and prevented most points of order from being raised against its provisions. This was a vote on a procedural motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who was leading the Republican opposition to the terms of the rule, argued that it continued the precedent the Democratic majority “set last year when they decided to . . . use a restrictive rule . . . .” He added: “(W)hat makes this restrictive rule more unfortunate is that the House has a long tradition of allowing open rules on appropriations bills . . . .” Diaz-Balart then cited a previous statement of his that “(A) vote against ordering the previous question is a vote against the Democratic majority agenda and a vote to allow the opposition, at least for the moment, to offer an alternative plan.”
Rep. Obey (D-WI), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee that developed H.R. 2847, responded by arguing that having open rules on all appropriations bills would require far too much time given the number of amendments that would be offered. He noted that the current Congress had already taken a considerable amount of time finishing all of the 2009 fiscal year funding bills that the previous Congress did not pass. He also noted other funding bills that “the new Congress had to pass because the previous administration had a practice of only asking for funding for (the Iraq War) . . . 6 months at a time.” Obey then said” “(W)e are trying to bring up the first of 12 appropriation bills. And in order to stay on schedule so we can do the people's business by the end of the fiscal year, we need to deal with all 12 of those bills in the next 6 weeks. I think that means that we have a problem.”
Obey cited the fact that “(I)n fiscal '03 there were no amendments offered to this bill. In fiscal '04 there were 10 amendments offered by Republicans and 6 by Democrats . . . and in '07 we had 38 amendments offered by Republicans and 37 offered by Democrats. Today, we have had filed on this bill 127 amendments.” He then pointed to the announced schedule “that would allow us to finish all of these appropriation bills by the August recess, provided that we were able to stick to that schedule . . . The problem that I see here with this bill is that we already have amendments filed that will take at least 23 hours . . . Obey said he had previously asked Rep. Lewis (R-CA), the Ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee “whether or not it would be possible to reach agreement on time and on the number of amendments offered so that we could finish this bill along the schedule that we had outlined; and at that time, the prospect did not seem too promising . . . .”
The motion passed by a vote of 247-176 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred and forty-seven “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. One other Democrat joined all one hundred and seventy-five Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for debate on the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and other programs.