This was a vote on an amendment that would have barred institutions of higher learning from receiving funds provided by the underlying bill if they prohibited the U.S. military from recruiting on their campuses. The amendment was offered to a bill intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world.
The House first debated H.R. 5116 (which was a bill intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world) on May 13. Republicans offered a motion to recommit that eliminated all new programs established by the bill (including a loan guarantee program for small manufacturers seeking to improve their competitiveness through technological innovation), and froze spending on existing programs at 2010 levels. (A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified. ) The motion to recommit also would have required colleges and universities receiving funds provided by the bill to allow military recruiters on their campuses. In addition, the motion to recommit prohibited federal funds from being used to view, download, or exchange pornography.
The motion to recommit effectively put Democrats in a difficult political position. In order to preserve programs they supported – such as the loan guarantee program described above – they would have to oppose a ban on federal funds from being used to view and disseminate pornography.
The GOP motion to recommit passed 292-126, with 121 Democrats voting “yea” with Republicans Since Republicans had succeeded in making such drastic changes to the bill, Democratic leaders then withdrew the legislation from the House floor without holding a vote on final passage. The Democratic leadership then brought a scaled-down version of the bill (designed to attract Republican support) to the floor under suspension of the rules; this procedure prohibits the minority party from offering any amendments or a motion to recommit. It also requires, however, that bills receive a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Although the scaled-down version bill included a number of the proposals from the GOP motion to recommit – including the anti-pornography language – most Republicans still voted against the measure, denying it the two-thirds majority required for passage.
Since the House had never voted on passage of H.R. 5116 on May 13 following the successful motion to recommit, House rules allowed Democratic leaders to bring the bill up again as “unfinished business.” Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) then demanded that the motion to recommit be divided into different sections (this rarely used procedure is known as “dividing the question”). Thus, the motion to recommit was split into nine separate parts. Roll call votes were held on six of the nine sections. (No roll call vote was requested on the remaining three sections.) This vote was on the eighth section, which dealt with military recruiters on college campuses.
No debate occurred on any sections of the GOP motion to recommit. When the House debated H.R. 5116 on May 13, Rep. Ralph Hall urged support for the motion to recommit, arguing it would “ensure that the institutions that we're giving Federal funding to through this act will repay the federal government by allowing the military onto their campuses for recruitment.”
No members spoke against this section during the May 13 debate. Many progressives, however, have long opposed requiring colleges to grant military recruiters access due to its policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly. When the House debated the issue of military recruiters on college campuses in 2006, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said: "The military's misguided Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers is clearly not compatible with university policies that prohibit campus recruiting by employers who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation….granting access to an employer, whether military, private sector or otherwise, that fails to meet a school's nondiscrimination policy is not equal access, but special access. It is a unique right to discriminate, granted only to the military."
The House agreed to this section of the GOP motion to recommit by a vote of 348-68. 179 Democrats and 169 Republicans voted “yea.” 68 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – voted “nay.” As a result, the House voted to bar barred institutions of higher learning from receiving funds provided by H.R. 5116 if they prohibited the U.S. military from recruiting on their campuses.