Providing for consideration (H. Res. 403) of the fiscal 2008 Defense authorization (H.R. 1585)/Motion to order the previous question (end debate and possibility of amendment)
house Roll Call 351 May 16, 2007
This motion was offered to force a vote on the rules for debate on a bill to authorize $648.6 billion in funding, including $141.6 billion in "emergency" spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the Defense Department for fiscal 2008.
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 "structured rule" proposed by the Democratic-controlled Rules Committee. Under a structured rule, only amendments pre-approved by the Rules Committee can be offered on the House floor. In this case, the rule made in order a total of 50 amendments.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) rose to opposed the rule on the grounds that the Rules Committee did not make in order "many of the amendments that were necessary to address the evisceration of our Missile Defense System and that, Madam Speaker, at a time when our intelligence tells us the North Koreans and the Iranians are continuing to develop dangerous missile capability."
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) responded that the committee considered 135 amendments and allowed 50. She added: "I think it is also important to respond to the claims that missile defense is not funded through this bill. Indeed, that is incorrect. The record should reflect that only in Washington can a program be provided and funded with billions and billions of dollars for numerous decades; and then say, oh, we are suffering. In fact, that is not the case."
Republicans also complained about many other specific amendments that were not allowed.
"Just for the simple fact that I am in the minority party, the Rules Committee did not allow an amendment which would have given a 9-year-old child from my district access to the death gratuity that her mother wanted her to have when she was killed in Iraq, just for partisan reasons," Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said. "There are at least 143 cases exactly like this. And to deny a child access to this benefit is simply outrageous."
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. 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 but one voted against the measure and all Democrats present but two voted for it, and the motion passed 225-198. Thus, a motion to force a vote on the rules for debate for legislation to authorize $648.6 billion for Defense programs for fiscal 2008 passed, and the House proceeded to a final vote on the rules package.
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