This was a vote to table (kill) the appeal of the ruling of the Speaker of the House that a motion was out of order. The motion that had been ruled out of order would have sent a bill the House was considering back to committee with instructions to add language in favor of permitting unlimited amendments to be offered to all legislation. The ruling was actually made by a Democratic Member who was sitting in the chair in the place of House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA). The Republicans appealed the ruling.
The Republican minority had been complaining that the Democratic majority had been unfairly limiting the number of amendments that could be offered to a series of federal government appropriation bills. To highlight their objections, the Republicans had engaged in a number of procedural tactics. One of those tactics was this motion by Rep. Kirk(R-IL) that had been ruled out of order.
The specific language of the Kirk motion was to add language to the bill the House was considering noting that it was the sense of the House that it should adhere to previous statements in favor of permitting unlimited amendments, which were made by Appropriations Committee Chairman Obey (D-WI). Those statements were made by Obey when he was in the minority. The language in the motion had been ruled out of order based on the House regulation prohibiting any non-spending provision, such as the one offered here, to be added to a spending bill. Kirk had moved to add the additional language to a bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the State Department.
During a previous debate on a similar effort by the Republicans, Rep. Simpson (R-ID) said “(W)e have (limited amendments) in the name of expediency . . . instead, what we have done is cut Members out not being able to offer amendments on the floor, not only minority Members but majority Members too. . . Members have the right and the ability to represent their constituents . . . That means offering amendments to appropriation bills. Our history has been that appropriation bills come to the floor under an open rule so that Members have the right to offer amendments . . . Our job is to come here and debate issues, not expediency, trying to get them done at a specific time.”
The Democratic majority had been arguing that the reason for the limitations on the number of amendments that could be offered to spending bills was that the House was scheduled to complete work on a large number of those bills by the end of July; the Democrats claimed that permitting unlimited amendments on each of the spending bills would prevent adherence to that schedule. In recent years, it was not unusual for several spending bills not to be completed before the before the beginning of the fiscal year to which they applied.
The appeal of the ruling was killed on a vote of 238-175 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred and thirty-eight “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Five other Democrats joined one hundred and seventy Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the ruling that the motion was out of order prevailed, and the House effectively decided not to adopt language favoring the offering of an unlimited number of amendments to all bills.