(H.R. 4899) On a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation providing $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, $10 billion to help local school districts prevent teacher layoffs, and $208 million for border security enforcement
This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation providing $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, $10 billion to help local school districts prevent teacher layoffs, and $208 million for border security enforcement.
Specifically, the resolution allowed the House to bring up a Senate-passed bill providing $37 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The resolution then divided the Senate measure (a parliamentary procedure known as “division of the question”) into five different “amendments.” The first amendment provided $1 billion to expand access to summer jobs for those between the ages of 14 and 24. In addition the amendment provides $1.2 billion to pay claimants in a lawsuit in which African American farmers had sued the Agriculture Department for discrimination. (The claimants had charged that the Agriculture Department had wrongfully denied their applications for loans.) This amendment was to be “considered” passed once the House passed the resolution.
The resolution then provided that recorded votes would occur on the remaining four amendments. The second of five amendments contained the Senate bill’s war funding described above, and also provided $10 billion for an “Education Jobs Fund” to prevent teacher layoffs, $5 billion for Pell Grants to help low-income students pay for college, and $700 million for border security enforcement. The third amendment would have eliminated all funding for military operations in Afghanistan. The fourth amendment would have restricted funding for military operations in Afghanistan, allowing those funds to be used only for withdrawing U.S. troops from that country. The fifth amendment required the president to submit to Congress by April 4, 2011 a plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
The process allowed liberal and anti-war members of the Democratic caucus to cast votes expressing their opposition to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars (as opposed to forcing them to cast a single up-or-down vote on funding for those wars).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) urged support for the resolution and the underlying legislation, while acknowledging that the resolution provided for a convoluted process for voting on the bill: “This is a difficult rule. It is a difficult rule because it deals with an extraordinarily important subject…It deals, as I said, with the lives and welfare of our young people. It deals with the security of this nation. It deals with the safety of our people.…I rise in support of this rule because I think that the very difficult line of trying to give every Member the opportunity to reflect their point of view, which, of course, in a body of 435 people is very difficult, but I think this rule attempts to do that.”
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) argued that including provisions in the bill unrelated to war funding could put American troops in jeopardy: “…I believe fully that if we were to have that up-or-down vote, that a bipartisan majority, a bipartisan majority in this House would in fact vote to complete the work, ensure that our men and women in uniform have all the resources that they need to proceed, and then we will have done our job….I am going to urge my colleagues to vote no on this rule for numerous reasons, the most important of which at this moment is to ensure that our men and women in uniform get what they need as soon as possible.”
The House agreed to the resolution by a vote of 215-210. 215 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – voted “yea.” 172 Republicans and 38 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation providing $37 billion for ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, $10 billion to help local school districts prevent teacher layoffs, and $208 million for border security enforcement.