The House and Senate had passed different versions of H.R. 2918, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for Congress. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of members of both bodies, and a conference report is developed. That report then must be passed by both Houses before it is sent to the president to be signed into law. This was a vote on House passage of the conference report containing the agreement between the House and Senate on fiscal year 2010 funding for Congress, which was the first conference report providing funding for 2010 to be completed and considered by the House.
Since the conference report for H.R. 2918 was the first to come to the House floor, the Democratic majority attached a “continuing resolution” to it. That resolution provided the spending authority to keep all departments and agencies of the federal government operating for a few weeks into the 2010 fiscal year at their 2009 fiscal year levels. Without that spending authority, the government would have had to shut down most of its operations.
Rep. Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), chairs the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed the House version of H.R.2918. She said the conference report “preserves all of the priorities of the House, and . . . the Legislative Branch bill is on time and under budget . . . this package was developed in full cooperation with the minority and represents a fully bipartisan agreement.”
Rep. Aderholt(R-AL), the Ranking Republican on the subcommittee that developed the House version of H.R.2918, said that is “is a good bill”. However, Aderholt then added “while I support the underlying bill . . . I regret that because of the attachment of the continuing resolution to this conference report I am unable to support this agreement.” He argued that “we need a clean continuing resolution and a clean Legislative Branch appropriations bill . . . .”, and claimed that attaching the continuing resolution to H.R. 2918 “is simply not a reasonable or responsible kind of governing . . . .”
Rep. Lewis(R-CA) is the Ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee. He objected to having the House debate the 2010 spending bill for the Congress before it debated the spending bills for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security or Veterans Affairs. Lewis claimed: “(M)embers who are concerned about approving their staff's budget before approving budgets for our veterans, our troops, or the homeland are left with a dilemma of the leadership's making. House Members are faced with the Hobson's choice of either approving their own budget or shutting down the government. Nothing could be more cynical.” Lewis added: “(I)t's not the continuing resolution that I object to but rather that it's being attached to legislation funding the internal operations of Congress rather than higher priority legislation . . . .”
Rep. McGovern (D-MA), had argued during a previous debate related to the H.R. 2918 conference report that the continuing resolution needed to be attached to the Legislative Branch spending bill because the Senate had been slow in approving the other fiscal year 2010 spending bills, and the authority to continue spending “is necessary to ensure that vital programs continue to receive funding.” McGovern had also acknowledged that “none of us on either side of the aisle are happy with continuing resolutions. They have been used for years under Democratic and Republican majorities, but they are clearly not ideal.”
The vote was 217-190. Two hundred and twelve Democrats and five Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and sixty- two Republicans and twenty-eight Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent on to the Senate the conference report containing the agreement between the House and Senate providing fiscal year 2010 funding for Congress as well as keeping the federal government operating for a few weeks into the 2010 fiscal year.