H.R. 3585, the Solar Technology Roadmap Act, was designed to identify and plan for solar technology needs, and to provide $2.2 billion over five years to schools and laboratories for solar research and development. As with most other legislation the House considers, it first had to approve a resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating the bill. These rules had become contentious matters. The Republican minority had been complaining during the congressional session that the Democratic majority was placing restrictions on many of these rules that significantly curtailed the ability of Members to offer amendments. As was the case with those other rules, the rule for H.R. 3585 limited the number of amendments that could be offered during the formal debate of the measure. This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule.
The House Rules Committee develops and submits the rules for bills, including the one for H.R. 3585. Chairwoman Slaughter (D-NY) and the other members of the Democratic majority on the Rules Committee took the position that they need to decide whether proposed amendments relate directly to the purpose of the bill when they determine which amendments to make in order. They also took the position that Republican members of the committee that developed H.R. 3585 had an ample opportunity to present their views during those committee deliberations.
Rep. Polis (D-CO) was leading the effort on behalf of the rule and supported the motion to bring it to an immediate vote. He said the Congress had previously not supported “the small businesses, the technology, and the policies that could have and should have changed our nation's energy outlook years ago.” He added that: “(A)merican solar businesses have had to deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what government policies will be in place from one year to the next; production in investment tax credits has ebbed and flowed with no real consistency . . . with no real directive to lead our research or investment. We desperately need to focus our research and focus our investments, and this legislation will do that.”
Rep. Foxx (R-NC) was leading the opposition to the rule and the motion to move to an immediate vote on it. She argued that the rule “does not allow for many of the amendments my colleagues on both sides of the aisle (have) presented . . . This is especially wrong when debating one of the important issues of our time, our nation's energy policy. By choosing to operate in this way, the majority has cut off the minority and their own colleagues from having any input in the legislative process. My assumption is that, along with me, all other Members want to see more solar power used in this country; but the Democrats in charge are limiting what ideas can be debated on the floor and what constituents can be adequately represented in the House. Our constituents in both Republican and Democrat districts are struggling to make ends meet, are facing unemployment, and yet are simultaneously being shut out of participating in debate over how their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent by the federal government.”
The House Rules Committee develops and submits the rules for most bills, including the one for H.R. 3585. The Democratic majority on the Rules Committee took the position that it weighs many factors when deciding which amendments to allow, including whether they relate directly to the purpose of the bill, whether they would add to the deficit, and whether they are “logical”. The Democratic majority also claimed that the Republican minority did have numerous opportunities to present its ideas while the committee that developed H.R. 3585 was engaged in its deliberations.
Other Republicans expressed opposition to the motion because they opposed the legislation itself. Rep. McClintock (D-CA) argued that, over the last 30 years, billions of dollars have “poured into research and development for solar technology . . . and an entire solar industry solely supported by NASA subsidies arose in order to grab those dollars. And what was the result of all of this plunder of taxpayers and rate payers . . . solar power accounts for just one percent of electricity generation. That's not for lack of subsidies; it's because despite all of the billions of dollars of subsidies, the technology remains immensely inefficient and expensive.” Rep. Duncan (R-TN) said he was “not against solar energy in any way, but it is way past time for this industry to stand on its own . . . The taxpayers simply cannot afford to keep funding a very wasteful program just because it is politically correct or fashionable to do so.”
The motion carried by a vote of 239-176. All two hundred and thirty-nine “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Eight other Democrats joined all one hundred and sixty-eight Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, House moved to an immediate vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the Solar Technology Roadmap Act.