This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation funding federal government programs and agencies for one week and cutting $12 billion from a number of domestic programs, including home heating assistance for low income Americans and clean water programs. While the underlying bill continued federal funding for most programs and government agencies for one week, it funded the Defense Department for six months (through the end of the federal government’s fiscal year).
This vote took place the day before the federal government was set to run out money—and shut down entirely. The possibility of a government shutdown was the result of a sharp disagreement between House Republicans and Senate Democrats—as well as President Obama—over spending levels for government programs. Democrats had agreed to enact more than $30 billion in budget cuts, but Republicans had insisted on at least $60 billion. While President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) negotiated a compromise on federal spending, the House brought up this temporary government funding measure.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) praised the spending cuts in the underlying bill: “Do we really need to continue all the appropriations for LIHEAP, the funding for helping people pay their heating bills, when we are in April this year? This is money that goes until the end of September. I hardly think that we're going to have people freezing to death in this country between now and September 30. Do we need to be looking after seniors and children? Obviously, we do. Republicans are not heartless people. But we have to look after them in a responsible way. Cutting spending is the way to be responsible to them…. Cutting spending is about ending wasteful spending, making the government leaner and more efficient, showing respect to hardworking taxpayers, and making the tough choices today that save our children and grandchildren from even tougher choices tomorrow. For hardworking Americans, this isn't about politics. It's about their life and putting our economy and our nation first.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) criticized the underlying bill’s spending cuts to programs that primarily served the poor and the elderly: “…This bill continues the misguided priorities that we have seen from the Republican leadership of the House for the last several months. It cuts vital domestic programs that families, communities, and States rely on during these difficult economic times….Most egregiously of all, it cuts $390 million from the LIHEAP [Low-Income Heating Energy Assistance Program] contingency fund. That's fuel assistance for poor people, mostly elderly, who need it as fuel prices continue to rise…. Every Member of this House believes that making sure our troops get their paychecks is a top priority. The men and women who serve this country in uniform deserve our support. But…so do the seniors of this country. So do the children of this country. So do the poor and the hungry of this country. So do the people who can't afford hot-shot lobbyists and multimillion dollar ad campaigns. We are supposed to represent them too.”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 228-189. All 228 Republicans present voted “yea.” All 189 Democrats present voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation funding federal government programs and agencies for one week and cutting $12 billion from a number of domestic programs, including home heating assistance for low income Americans and clean water programs.