This was a vote on approving the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating H.R. 2918. That bill provided fiscal year 2010 funding for all congressional operations. The rule for the bill permitted only one amendment to be offered during its consideration. The Republican minority had been expressing its strong opposition to this type of limitation on amendments to funding bills.
Rep. Hastings (D-FL), arguing on behalf of the rule and of the underlying bill, said that H.R. 2918 “provides a pragmatic and fiscally responsible approach to funding our legislative branch. Actually, spending is increased only by 7 percent, less than half of the 15 percent increase requested. The funding provided in this legislation will help us do our jobs better and faster. It increases funding for the Congressional Budget Office by $1 million, making it easier for Members to obtain a “pay as you go” analysis of their proposals”. This analysis relates to the congressional requirement that any new spending or tax change proposals have a neutral impact on the budget, be offset with identified savings derived elsewhere, or be supported by a new financing source.
Rep. Dreier (R-CA), the Ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, argued against the rule because its restriction on the number of amendments that could be offered reflects the fact that “the minority party, the group that represents almost half the American people, is being treated as if they don't exist . . . where the majority is ignoring the minority and doing what the American people do not want.” Dreier also argued that the restrictive rule is “a perfect example of how excessive spending is managing to occur.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC), another senior Republican member of the House Rules Committee, noted that twenty amendments had been proposed to be made in order by the committee, but only one was in order under the rule being considered. She also noted that, “in 2006, the last year Republicans were in the majority, we made all seven amendments submitted to the Rules Committee in order. That's the way it should be . . . We should be debating these bills on the floor.”
Rep. Heller (R-NV) also opposed the rule, and singled out for criticism the proposed $51 million increase the bill provided for Members’ Representational Allowances. He said his office could use an increased allowance “(B)ut I am always mindful of the fact that (these) funds are simply taxpayer dollars by another name, and I have a responsibility to use those funds wisely.” Heller noted that he wanted to offer an amendment to H.R. 2918 that would retain the Members Allowance figure for 2010 at the 2009 funding level, but was unable to do so under the proposed rule. He argued that the amendment would have shown the country “that someone in Congress understands that these difficult times call for shared sacrifice . . . Unfortunately, my amendment was rejected by the Rules Committee.” He then urged a “no” vote, which would “(G)ive this Congress a chance to lead by example with commonsense fiscal responsibility.”
The resolution setting the terms for debate was approved by a vote of 226-179. All 226 “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Eleven other Democrats joined with one hundred and sixth-eight Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to begin debate on final passage of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the operations of Congress.