This vote was on adopting a resolution setting for the rules of the House for the 111th Congress.
The rules remove the current term-limit system for chairmen of committees. Prior to the resolution's adoption, chairmen were limited to six-year terms in that position. It also would change the "motion to recommit" system so that it is only possible to direct a committee to change a bill and then send it back to the floor "forthwith" rather than "promptly."
In the unusual language of the House, if a motion is to be reported “forthwith,” that means the change in question is executed on the floor of the House, and consideration resumes immediately. If it is to be reported “promptly,” the bill actually is in fact sent back to committee, where the bill can die easily. The bill under consideration would remove promptly as an option during recommittal motions; Dreier wanted that language removed. In the past year, Republicans have repeatedly attempted to use this parliamentary maneuver, much to the dismay of the Democratic leadership of the House, who argue it is just a delaying tactic.
David Dreier, R-Calif., complained that the change was draconian and would shut out the minority from any real chance to change bills on the floor.
"The Democratic leadership is no longer content to shut down debate on an ad hoc basis. They are making it official with this rules package. The underlying resolution contains a host of new procedural gimmicks to stifle debate and to perpetuate partisanship. This resolution changes the rules of the House to formally limit, to formally limit, the motion to recommit. This limitation prevents any bill from being returned to committee for further deliberation," Dreier said.
Barney Frank, D-Mass., said nothing in the change would diminish the minority's ability to offer an alternative.
"They are fully able to offer an alternative as an amendment. What they will be losing here is a legislative Ponzi scheme in which you pretend to be something you are not," Frank said. "Here's the way it works: If the minority wants under any bill to offer a motion to recommit, as the rule will now read if this passes, they can offer a motion to recommit with a germane amendment that is binding, and if it is adopted, the bill is amended on the spot. But they often don’t want to do that. Often their amendments are really disguises for opposition to the bill in general. So they take an amendment that would pass virtually unanimously because it is so popular and say it should be done in a way that sends the bill back to committee rather than to amend the bill."
The measure also would allow exceptions to the House rule against increasing the deficit for certain types of spending, such as those designated emergency spending.
By a vote of 242-181, the resolution was adopted. Every Republican present voted against the resolution. Of Democrats present, 242 voted for it and 6 voted against it. The end result is that the House adopted a resolution outlining rules that will govern the body in the 111th Congress, including removing a parliamentary tactic the minority was once able to use to kill bills.