This was on a motion to move to an immediate vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for debating legislation that authorized funding for federal programs that support local firefighters. The bill included grant programs designed to help fire departments maintain and hire firefighters.
As with most significant bills the House considers, the House had to approve a rule setting the terms for its debate before the bill could be formally considered. Those terms are set by the House Rules Committee. The decision of the committee was controlled by its Democratic majority. The rule for this bill made in order all of the amendments that individual Member requested.
Rep. Pingree (D-ME) was leading the support for the rule and for the motion to move to an immediate vote on the rule. She called the programs authorized by the bill “vital (to) . . . our local firefighters and our communities.” Pingree referenced the facts that: “In fiscal year 2008, the Federal Emergency Management Agency received over 20,000 applications from fire departments requesting over $3 billion . . . The National Fire Protection Association estimates that 65 percent of fire departments in the United States do not have enough portable radios to equip all firefighters, and that 36 percent of all fire departments involved in emergency medical responses do not have enough adequately trained personnel to respond to these emergencies.” Pingree concluded her remarks by saying: “The safety of our homes and our neighborhoods has never been a partisan issue . . . .”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) was leading the Republican opposition to the rule and the motion to bring it to an immediate vote. He first agreed that the bill “is a bipartisan measure. Dealing with issues of firefighting obviously transcends partisanship in every way. And this is a very, very important measure that will, in fact, have, I suspect, unanimous support here on the House floor.”
Dreier then went on to argue that, “as important as this issue is . . . (and while all) five amendments . . . were made in order . . . it's very sad that we have gone through this entire Congress without a single open rule (allowing any amendment to be offered). And that is, I think, a very, very unfortunate thing. It is a step forward that every amendment submitted upstairs to the Rules Committee was made in order. But why not consider it under an open amendment process which would allow any rank-and-file Member to stand up and offer an amendment to this legislation?”
Dreier concluded his remarks by saying “I'm going to urge my colleagues to defeat the (motion). It will not in any way impinge on our ability to move ahead and pass this very important legislation dealing with firefighting. At the same time, it will do something else that the American people have been asking us, and that is to read, review, and consider legislation in a very deliberative manner . . . .”
The motion to have an immediate vote on the rule was approved by a vote of 242-174 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred and forty-two “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Five other Democrats joined all one hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved to an immediate vote on the resolution setting the terms for debating the legislation authorizing funding for programs that support local firefighters.