Providing for consideration (H. Res. 387) for two fiscal 2007 "emergency" supplemental spending bills and legislation to require a withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq (H.R. 2206, H.R. 2237, H.R. 2207)/Motion to order the previous question (ending debate and preventing amendment)
house Roll Call 326 May 10, 2007
This motion was offered to force a vote on the rules for debate for a series of bills to provide $95.5 billion in "emergency" appropriations for the military for the remainder of fiscal 2007, a timeline for withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq as well as $4.5 billion for agriculture relief.
The resolution outlined the rules for debate for the legislation, including how much floor time would be granted to each side and which amendments would be considered in order. The resolution is thus commonly known as the rules package. This vote was a motion ordering the previous question, which is a parliamentary maneuver that effectively ends debate, prohibits amendment and moves the House to a vote for an up-or-down of the resolution under consideration.
To oppose ordering the previous question was a vote against the Democratic majority agenda and to allow the opposition to offer an alternative plan. Motions to order the previous question are about who controls the debate and represent one of the only tools available to those who oppose the majority's agenda.
Republicans opposed the rules package because of their opposition to the so-called "closed rule" proposed by the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee. Under a closed rule, no amendments can be offered on the House floor.
This Iraq war-spending bill was drafted after President Bush vetoed similar legislation because of its inclusion of a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. (See Roll Calls 235 and 276.) The original bill also contained disaster relief for farmers following record droughts and other severe weather in many parts of the country.
This time around, House appropriators separated the two spending bills (for war spending and agriculture relief) and the Iraq pullout language into three separate measures. The rules of consideration would provide that the three measures be combined into one piece of legislation after they were adopted individually.
Under the this plan, the war-spending bill itself would be divided into two parts: $42.8 billion would be provided immediately to fund military operations, an amount expected to last two to three months. The measure would then require a second round of votes in late July 2007 to release the remaining $52.8 billion.
The legislation would also include similar benchmarks for the Iraqi government as had been in the spending bill Bush vetoed May 1. Prior to the vote to release the second sum of funding, Congress would vote on an amendment requiring that the second sum be used solely to start bringing U.S. combat forces home within 90 days of enactment.
Bush expressed his intension to veto this spending package, as well.
The Iraq spending bill is the seventh "emergency" appropriations bill to make its way through Congress during President Bush's term. Another, more massive supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was expected in the fall. ("Emergency" supplemental appropriations bills are so named because they are handled outside of the regular annual Congressional processes that fund the activities of the U.S. government and therefore don't have to abide by normal budget rules.)
Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.) said Congress had an obligation to have a "serious, substantive debate to supply our troops with the funds they need to do their job," but that the Democrats "simply scheduled one more empty political vote under yet another totally closed process."
"And we all know, under both Democrats and Republicans, the tradition is that when it comes to wartime supplementals, they be considered under an open amendment process, but that's been thrown out the door," Dreier said.
Democrats said it was time for accountability.
"My fellow Democrats and I promised a new way forward," Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said. "And so the first funding bill that we delivered to the president reconciled our party's conscience with the brutal realities the war presented to us, realities that we, unlike some in the administration, are willing to acknowledge.
"And we said the war would not go on forever, that it must have an end, not an irresponsible end but an end," Slaughter continued. "The President rejected our offer out of hand. He told us that while he would never compromise, we had to. Mr. Speaker, stubbornness is not the same as strength."
If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the House in effect turns control of the floor over to the lawmaker who led the opposition to the question at hand, usually a member of the minority party. As such, motions to order the previous question are usually party-line votes, and the majority party almost always prevails.
Such was the case for this vote, and all Republicans present voted against the measure and all but three Democrats present voted for it, and the motion passed 222 to 201. Thus, on a party-line vote, the House ended debate and brought to a vote the rules for consideration for three pieces of legislation to fund the Iraq war, to require a timeline for the withdrawal of combat troops and to provide relief for farmers impacted by severe weather.
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