This was a vote on final passage of legislation funding all government agencies and programs at existing funding levels (i.e., funding levels that were in place in 2010) through September 30, 2011. Such spending bills are known as “continuing resolutions,” or “CRs.” Democratic leaders also attached a food safety bill to this CR. The food safety bill, which had already passed the Senate, increased safety inspections at food processing plants and gave the federal government new authority to recall tainted food products. The CR also froze the salaries of civilian federal workers for two years.
Rep. David Obey (D-WI) argued that the CR was the product of compromises, many of which he did not like, yet argued that passage of the bill was the only responsible option. He blasted Republican opposition to the bill, and urged all members to support it: “I hope it does not represent too great an `inconvenience' to those members of this body who are much more comfortable providing budget-busting tax gifts to the economic elite in this country rather than making even the tiniest government investment in programs that will help the lives of the unlucky…There are at least 50 decisions in this bill that I am flatly opposed to. There are many arguments in this bill that I have lost. But the fact is, sooner or later, if you're going to be responsible, you have to set aside your first preferences and simply do what is necessary in order to keep the government open so that Congress doesn't become the laughingstock of the country. The only responsible vote to cast on this proposition is an ``aye'' vote. I urge support for the resolution, with all of its shortcomings.”
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) replied that if Obey was so unhappy with the CR, than he should join Republicans in voting to defeat it: “…If both of us dislike it so much, Mr.Obey, and if we both voted `no,' maybe we could bring the turkey down and start all over again.” Lewis argued the bill was fiscally irresponsible: “…I remain adamantly opposed to extending this CR for the balance of the fiscal year at Democrats' current levels, which are too high, or at the inflated levels proposed in this package….none of us believe we should shut down the government, but I cannot and will not support the CR…because it simply spends too much…”
Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) urged support for the bill, and praised its food safety provisions: “ Some 5,000 Americans die every year of bad food, 300,000 go to the hospital, and 77 million get sick. This bill gives the Food and Drug Administration the funds, the authority that it needs to do the job that has to be done.”
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) urged opposition to the bill, and criticized the food safety measures. He specifically took issue with a provision authored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) exempting small farms from regulations: “ The inclusion of what's called the Tester amendment in the Senate bill means that some farms, small farms along the borders between the United States and Mexico and the United States and Canada would be exempt from some of the requirements of the bill.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 212-206. 212 Democrats – including a majority of progressives – voted “yea.” All 171 Republicans present and 35 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation funding all government agencies and programs at existing funding levels (i.e., funding levels that were in place in 2010) through September 30, 2011, and implementing new food safety regulations.