This was a vote on a motion to suspend the usual House rules and pass H.R. 388, the Crane Conservation Act of 2009. The measure was intended to assist in the conservation of the world's 15 crane species, including the whooping crane and the sand hill crane found in North America. The bill would establish a new fund out of which Federal matching grants would be made to conserve the endangered birds and their habitats around the world.
Rep. Baldwin (D-WI), who had introduced the legislation in the House, explained that the bill “will provide the resources to support initiatives that protect cranes and, importantly, their habitats, which have deteriorated due to industrial development, pollution, and other human disturbances, including wars and other violent conflicts. The bill will also provide the means for the United States to fulfill various international obligations and commitments, thus having a large environmental and cultural impact across the globe. Additionally, the Crane Conservation Act will provide resources for the United States to bring people and governments around the world together to protect ecosystems, develop adequate habitats, and encourage overall goodwill.”
Baldwin noted that: “(C)ranes are the most endangered family of birds in the world, with 11 of the world's 15 crane species at risk of extinction. . .” She also pointed out that cranes “have served as ambassadors of harmony and peace in the international arena. Representatives from nations with various political struggles have reached beyond the instability to address the conservation of cranes.”
A motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill is a procedural mechanism that is usually employed to gain approval for measures that the House leadership deems not to be very controversial. There is a limited time period allowed for debate, and amendments cannot be offered. A two thirds vote is required to approve the motion and pass a bill, rather than the usual majority.
Rep. Bishop (R-UT) spoke in opposition to the motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill, although he characterized its purpose as “a noble concept.” He first noted that seven crane species were already protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, and that there were “several laws on the books which can help conserve domestic cranes and their habitats . . . . ” He also argued that the special fund established by the bill is “another one of several funds that keep growing all the time without any coordinated policy to it.”
Another reason Bishop gave for his opposition was that: “(W)ith the current economic crisis the United States finds itself in--exacerbated by our spending bills in the stimulus, in the budget, and the omnibus bills which simply spend too much, tax too much, and borrow too much--it is highly questionable whether this is the time to once again create another multinational fund to spend taxpayers' money overseas. Other countries should be required to step up to the plate to save their own wildlife without relying on American funds going there. “ Rep. Gohmert (R-TX) echoed that theme and said . . . it is my understanding that of the 15 crane species here, 13 are not in the United States.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 288-116. Two hundred and thirty-six Democrats and fifty-two Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and fifteen Republicans and one Democrat, voted “nay”. As a result, the House passed, and sent on to the Senate, legislation to assist in the conservation of the world's 15 species of cranes.