What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : America's Poor : H. Res. 254, Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1227) to assist in the provision of affordable housing to low income families affected by the 2005 hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast/On agreeing to the resolution (2007 house Roll Call 160)
 Who: All Members : New York, District 2 : King, Pete
[POW!]
 
H. Res. 254, Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 1227) to assist in the provision of affordable housing to low income families affected by the 2005 hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast/On agreeing to the resolution
house Roll Call 160     Mar 20, 2007
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This vote outlined the rules for debate on legislation to supply $237 million worth of tax credits to help replace low-income housing units destroyed by hurricanes to hit the Gulf Coast in 2005.

Co-sponsored by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the bill would prohibit the demolition of public housing that is damaged or otherwise uninhabitable until the Department of Housing and Urban Development develops a plan to replace it. It gives the agency until July 2008 to provide adequate housing and authorizes the department to provide relocation assistance to those displaced families.

The rules for consideration determine how much time is awarded to each side for debate and what amendments would be considered in order. The "rules package," as it is known, was drafted by the Democrat-dominated Rules Committee and was a closed-rule, meaning that only amendments outlined in the rules package could be brought up on the House floor. In contrast, open rules allow any lawmaker to offer amendments on the House floor, regardless of whether they were approved by the Rules Committee.

"I think it is appropriate to point out that the majority is failing to live up to its commitment to run the House in an open and fair manner," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.). "I believe it is fair to say, if the majority is serious about their commitment to openness, they should allow for open rules on the underlying legislation and the supplemental appropriations bill which is coming forth soon."

Diaz-Balart went on to explain that Republicans were concerned that the bill goes beyond its stated intent of helping hurricane victims and essentially turns a temporary disaster voucher program into a permanent entitlement. In response to those concerns, Republicans offered several amendments to the Rules Committee, "however, the majority once again closed them out," prompting Republicans to oppose the rule.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) responded that "this pretty much is an open rule," and the only amendments that were prohibited were not "germane" (relevant to the bill) or had been previously voted down on the floor. Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) responded further that although it was not "a fully open rule," it was far more open "than any that the majority allowed in the previous Congress on major legislation from the Financial Services Committee."

In the end, two Republicans joined all 226 Democrats present to pass the rules of debate for a bill to provide housing relief to victims of the 2005 hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. Thus, by a vote of 228-190, the House approved the rules package and moved the measure one step towards debate and passage.

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