This vote was on whether to allow to go forward a conference report on a bill that doles out money for the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency in fiscal 2010. A conference report represents the final compromise version of any legislation in which the House and Senate pass different bills.
John McCain, R-Ariz., attempted to defeat the conference report with a parliamentary maneuver, arguing that the measure violated the Senate’s spending rules. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., then made a motion that the rules be waived in this case, which is what this vote was on.
McCain argued that the bill spends too much money, particularly in light of spending already handed out by the economic stimulus law.
“I was deeply touched and moved by both the manager of the bill and the ranking minority member’s lamentations about the budgetary constraints in which we are suffering—deeply moved, almost to tears, until I saw that this bill provides approximately $32.2 billion, a 17-percent increase over last year’s levels, and $4.66 billion more,” McCain said. “You know, the bill comes after we already gave $10.95 billion in the stimulus bill. It is remarkable, remarkable.’
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, said the bill does raise spending over last year’s levels but that the funds are “greatly needed” by many national priorities and “agencies which provide critical support to all Americans.”
“I would share my colleagues’ concern with spending if the Appropriations Committee were exceeding the amounts approved in the budget, but in point of fact we are not. Moreover, in total the amounts that are in this bill when combined with the other 11 appropriations bills are below the amounts requested by the administration,” Inouye said. “Over the past few months we have heard the repeated cries that we are spending too much. But to reiterate, the facts are we are spending less than requested by the administration and the same amount or less than was approved by the Congress.”
By a vote of 60-40, the rules were waived. Every Democrat present voted to waive the rules. Every Republican present voted against waiving the rules. The end result is that the rules were waived, the parliamentary maneuver to defeat the conference report failed, and debate continued on a bill to fund the Interior Department and EPA in fiscal 2010.