H.R. 3288 provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. Included in H.R. 3288 was a total $41.1 billion in federal spending. The resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill included a limitation on the number of amendments that Members could offer. This was a vote on the rule.
Rep. Arcuri (D-NY), who was leading the effort on behalf of the rule, said that H.R. 3288 would, among other things, decrease traffic congestion, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The major element of disagreement in the rule was that it limited the number of amendments that could be offered to the bill.
The Republican minority had been engaged in an ongoing effort against what they were maintaining was the unfair practice of the Democratic majority of limiting the number of amendments that could be offered on bills, especially spending bills such as H.R. 3288.The Democrats were taking the position that a limitation on the number of amendments was necessitated by the need to keep to a congressional schedule of passing all spending bills in a timely manner. In recent years, Congress had been well behind schedule in completing spending bills, and had failed to pass all of them before the beginning of the fiscal year they covered.
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who was leading the Republican effort against the rule, argued: “(H)istorically, appropriations bills, such as the one being brought to the floor today, have come to the floor under an open rule, a rule that allows any Member, from either side of the aisle, to offer amendments . . . The new doctrine and process (of limiting the number of amendments) not only breaks two centuries of tradition and precedent in the House; it also runs contrary to one of the central tenets of the Democrats' election campaign. During the 2006 campaign, they claimed that they would run Congress in a more open and bipartisan manner. . . But here we are today, Congress for the first time in history (is) completely shutting down the previously open appropriations process.”
Rep. Flake (R-AZ) raised a technical point of order against the rule, and characterized the limitation on amendments as forcing Republicans to be “living under what is the equivalent of legislative martial law, where the majority has stated that they cannot allow appropriation bills to come to the floor because we have to get through this process . . . .” He argued that “appropriating is one of the most--if not the most important--thing that Congress does. We maintain the power of the purse under article 1. This is our responsibility . . . It's not about an issue of time. Flake concluded with the claim that “a bad process begets bad policy.”
Arcuri responded by noting that the rule made 23 amendments in order, “each of which is debatable for 10 minutes.” He claimed that the point of order raised by Flake “is not about anything other than delaying the passage of this very important bill.” Arcuri then referenced the many amendments Flake had been allowed to offer to a series of previous spending measures, said that H.R. 3288 was a “critical bill”, and asked Members to “vote ‘yes’' so we can consider this legislation on its merits and not stop it by virtue of a procedural motion.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 235-183. All two hundred and thirty-five “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Thirteen other Democrats joined with all one hundred and seventy Republicans present and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debating the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.