(H.Res. 578) Legislation providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies - - on whether the House should move immediately to a vote on the resolution setting the terms for debate of the bill
H.R. 2996 provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. The resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debate on the bill included limitations on the number of amendments that were in order to be offered to it. This was a vote on a procedural motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule.
Rep. Dicks (D-WA), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 2996 said he would have preferred an “open rule” that permitted unlimited amendments. However, he claimed that the goal of completing this and all the other spending bills in a timely manner would be threatened by the time consumed if every Member were able to offer an amendment to every spending bill. Dicks said “we have to remember that we've got to get these 12 (spending) bills passed. The greatest sin, in my judgment, is to not do our work; and there are some people in this House who don't want to see the work get done because then they can point the finger of failure at the majority.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC) was leading the opposition for the Republicans to the rule. She argued that, because of its restrictive terms, “both sides of the aisle are being denied the ability to offer amendments.” Foxx also argued that H.R. 2996 “is filled with wasteful spending” and suggested that Members should be permitted to offer amendments to reduce its funding levels.
Foxx also noted that the bill “contains also several hundred earmarks.” An earmark is a legislatively mandated grant or project inserted at the request of an individual Member in a funding bill. She said: “(T)he earmark system is flawed. And we know that even some of the earmarks in this bill have had questions raised about them. This legislation contains several giveaways for and preferential treatment to green companies in order to promote the green climate. This bill applies Davis-Bacon, (requiring the payment of prevailing wages on federal projects), which will create wasteful spending that we do not need to have.” She concluded by asking Members “to vote against this rule in order to allow this body to appropriately and adequately offer their ideas and engage in the debate that our constituents deserve.”
Rep. Simpson (R-ID) also opposed the rule. He first acknowledged that Republicans had placed restrictions on the number of amendments that could be offered when they were in the majority in the House, and that both parties “can point fingers at one another ad nauseam . . .” He went on to say: “It's time to restore this House to the time-honored traditions of open debate, which we inherited from those who came before us, when Members had the right and the ability to represent their constituents.”
Rep. Polis (D-CO), who was leading the support for the rule, responded by noting that the rule “makes in order 12 Republican amendments and indeed only . . . two Democratic amendments. I think it is fair to both parties. Included in the allowed amendments are five earmark amendments.” Rep. Foxx answered by arguing: “If we had an open rule, every Member would have had (the) opportunity (to offer an amendment) . . . .”
The motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule passed on a vote of 241-182. All 241 “yea” votes were cast by Democrats. Eight other Democrats joined 174 Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved immediately to a vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the fiscal year 2010Interior Department funding bill.