This was a vote on final passage of H.R. 3288, providing nearly $450 billion in fiscal year 2010 funding for several federal departments. H.R. 3288 originally provided fiscal year 2010 funding only for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. The Senate and House of Representatives had each passed different versions of the bill. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between both bodies. Since fiscal year 2010 was well under way and Congress had not yet passed the funding bills for a number of other departments, the Democratic majority decided during the conference on H.R. 3288 to add to it the 2010 funding for almost all of those other departments.
Sen. Durbin (D-IL), the Senate Majority Deputy Majority Leader who serves on the Appropriations Committee was leading the support for the legislation. He claimed that the committee “had been working . . . to pass all 12 appropriations bills (in a timely manner).” Durbin then noted that all the other spending bills that were incorporated into H.R. 3288 during the conference had been “reported out of committee with overwhelming bipartisan votes.”
He then said: “However, when we moved these bills to the floor, we ran into these obstacles (put up by the Republicans) . . . Time was lost that could have been used . . . to consider these appropriations bills. Appropriations bills in the past . . . used to take 1 or 2 days before the Senate. Members would come to the floor, amendments would be offered, debated, end of story . . . Now even routine bills with no controversy take weeks because of amendments . . . which, frankly, have little or no relevance . . . .” Durbin added: “These appropriations bills (that were folded into H.R. 3288) have taken longer because, unfortunately, the (Republican) minority will not agree to reasonable time limits to consider amendments and finish debate.
Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) led the opposition to the legislation. He first acknowledged that “there are some good things in this bill.” Kyl then noted “the problem” that arises when “you do not do these appropriations bills one at a time, so you can vote on each one on its own merits, you are relegated to combining them into one giant bill . . . and you cannot differentiate between the things you support and the things you oppose. So what you have to end up doing is accepting all of the bad stuff in order to be able to support the good things.”
He gave as example the fact that “nobody wants to vote against veterans (whose 2010 fiscal year benefits were added to the bill in conference). But if you get to the point in the year where you have not done your work, and you have to combine all these bills together . . . (T)hat is too much. And we could actually save money by being more discreet in supporting some things and opposing others. That is why it would have been better if the majority could have gotten these bills to us one at a time rather than combined into one omnibus bill.”
Kyl claimed there is “a time-honored tradition around here. If you cannot get it all passed on its own merits, then bundle it up with a whole bunch of other stuff, and we will have to accept a lot of bad policy and bad spending because we do not want be accused of not supporting our nation's veterans.”
The legislation passed on a vote of 57-35. Fifty-four Democrats and three Republicans voted “aye”. Thirty-two Republicans and three Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the Senate passed the major 2010 spending bill and sent it to the White House to be signed into law.