Emergency agriculture relief (H.R. 2207)/Motion to recommit with instructions to offset the spending in the bill with spending cuts or tax increases and leaving open the possibility that the measure could go back to committee indefinitely
house Roll Call 335 May 10, 2007
This vote was on a Republican motion to send an agriculture relief bill back to committee ostensibly to find what are known as "offsets" - spending cuts or tax increases to make the bill "budget-neutral." Democrats accused Republicans of using the motion as a trick to send the legislation back to committee to never return to the House floor for a vote.
The legislation was a package of emergency aid to farmers affected by extreme weather conditions in many parts of the country, including floods, wildfires and drought. The bill would provide $4.5 billion in fiscal 2007 emergency spending, including $1.8 billion in crop disaster assistance and $1.5 billion in livestock assistance, as well as $500 million for wildfire management and suppression. The measure also included $425 million funding for rural schools, $60 million for the California salmon industry and $31 million for a milk subsidy program.
Republicans said the measure was excessive and unnecessary, and President Bush threatened to veto it.
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. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) offered the motion to recommit. He said it was a "simple motion to recommit that sends the bill back to committee and instructs the committee to find offsets."
No other words in support were offered by Republicans.
Democrats accused them of trickery and hypocrisy.
Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said that the motion was "really quite interesting."
"What it says is that the same folks who want to spend $57 billion on tax cuts on millionaires this year, all paid for with borrowed money, the same folks who are comfortable with the idea that we have got over a trillion dollars in unfunded tax cuts, all paid for with borrowed money, the same folks that want us to spend, no questions asked, at least $600 billion in a sad, sad war in Iraq, these folks have suddenly gotten religion, and they now have a motion that says they would like to see this bill be deficit neutral," Obey said.
He continued: "What that means is they are going to ask the farmers of America to bear the full weight of deficit reduction in this bill. This is simply a device to kill the bill because instead of asking that the bill be reported forthwith, it asks that the bill be reported promptly. That, as you know, is code language for killing the bill. I don't think I need to say anything further.
"If you want to provide the funding in this bill, you will vote against this motion to recommit. If you care about the farmers, if you care about the western wildfire problem, if you want to meet our obligation to the parts of the country that generally get stiffed and ignored, then you vote against the motion to recommit. If you care about these folks, you will vote against the motion to recommit," Obey concluded.
The motion was rejected on a near party-line vote. All but 12 Republicans voted for it, and all but four Democrats voted against it. Thus, by a vote of 184 to 233, Republicans were shut out of their attempts to send the measure back to committee to offset the bill's price tag with tax increases or spending cuts elsewhere - what Democrats said was an attempt to kill the bill, as the language in the motion specified no time constraints on when the legislation had to come back to the House floor for a vote - and a measure to provide disaster assistance to farmers made its way to a final vote.
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