This vote was essentially the culmination of a battle of competing procedural maneuvers over whether to send a bill back to the Financial Services Committee to add language that would transfer certain funds to the Social Security Trust Fund. The motion was offered to a bill that would create new conditions on the use of some $350 billion in funding to purchase certain “toxic” mortgage assets weighing down the balance books of banks and companies.
Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, first made a motion attempting to send the bill back to the committee to add language that would have directed $350 billion into the Social Security trust fund, as well as to create a two-month tax holiday. Barney Frank, D-Mass., then made his own motion objecting to Gohmert’s move as violating the rules of the House because the language being sought was not related (or “germane”) enough to the subject of the bill at hand. The officer presiding over the House – a Democrat, since that party is in the majority -- then ruled in Frank’s favor, finding that because the underlying bill itself is not related (or “germane”) to Social Security, Gohmert’s procedural motion was in violation of House rules and therefore considered defeated. Gohmert then asked for a vote on appealing the chairman’s ruling, and Frank countered with a motion to kill Gohmert’s appeal, which is what this vote was on.
Gohmert in essence argued that because the underlying bill directs the Treasury Secretary to take certain actions, and because his motion also directs the Treasury Secretary to take certain actions, that it should not be ruled defeated as non-germane.
“The bill itself attempts to direct the Treasury Secretary to take certain actions and to be more accountable, whereas [my motion] directs the Treasury Secretary in a different direction and says he must put the $350 billion back in the Treasury and allow a 2-month tax holiday so the American taxpayer can bail out the economy, not a Treasury Secretary,” Gohmert said.
Frank said Gohmert’s argument does not hold water.
“The argument is that because the bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to do certain things that are within the jurisdiction of the Financial Services Committee, it is therefore allowed if you want to direct the Secretary of the Treasury to do anything. Now, it might, I suppose, be that the Secretary of Treasury could declare war on somebody under that theory, except my colleagues there don’t believe having any check on the executive power to declare war; so they wouldn’t vote that. There is a clear violation here of the rules,” Frank said.
By a vote of 251-176, Frank’s motion to kill Gohmert’s appeal was agreed to. Every Republican present voted against Frank’s motion. All but one Democrat present voted for Frank’s motion (Henry Cuellar of Texas). The end result is that Frank’s motion was agreed to, meaning that ultimately Gohmert’s attempt to redirect mortgage rescue money to the Social Security trust fund failed.