This was a procedural vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation funding federal government programs and agencies for one week and cutting $12 billion from a number of domestic programs, including home heating assistance for low income Americans and clean water programs. If passed, this particular procedural motion--known as the “previous question"--effectively ends debate and brings the pending legislation to an immediate vote. While the underlying bill continued federal funding for most programs and government agencies for one week, it funded the Defense Department for six months (through the end of the federal government’s fiscal year).
This vote took place the day before the federal government was set to run out money—and shut down entirely. The possibility of a government shutdown was the result of a sharp disagreement between House Republicans and Senate Democrats—as well as President Obama—over spending levels for government programs. Democrats had agreed to enact more than $30 billion in budget cuts, but Republicans had insisted on at least $60 billion. While President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) negotiated a compromise on federal spending, the House brought up this temporary government funding measure.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) argued that the bill would prevent a government shutdown, cut spending on social programs, and ensure that those serving in the military received paychecks: “…We are seeing a stunning lack of leadership on behalf of Washington Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Reid and President Obama, who have refused to do the work that Americans sent them here to do. They have exhibited willful disregard for our troops and their families, who are uncertain about their paychecks with a government shutdown looming. The bill we will debate and pass funds the Department of Defense for the remainder of the year, while cutting another $12 billion in wasteful Washington spending….After all of these gestures of good faith made by House Republicans, the time has now come for the hapless liberal Democrat elites in the Senate and the White House to make a decision. It's time to decide between acting responsibly, abandoning favored political alliances, or continuing their failed big government policies as a solution to all earthly problems.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) opposed the resolution and the underlying bill: “Now, I know that many of my friends on the other [Republican] side of the aisle would like to accept the billions and billions of dollars in cuts that the Democrats have offered and declare a victory. Unfortunately, their Republican Party has been hijacked by people who relish a shutdown of the federal government, people who refuse to take `yes' for an answer. They are more interested in making a point than in making law. And unless and until the Republican leadership in this House is willing to stand up to that radical element and stop moving the goalposts, we will not be able to move forward. My friends on the other side of the aisle talk a good game about wanting to come up with a compromise. Unfortunately, this bill before us today does nothing to achieve that goal. In fact, it is a step backwards. This bill…isn't going anywhere. The Senate leadership and the White House have already made it very clear that yet another short-term continuing resolution [government spending bill] is not acceptable.”
The House agreed to the previous question motion by a vote of 238-185. All 236 Republicans present and 2 Democrats voted “yea.” 185 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to a final vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation funding federal government programs and agencies for one week and cutting $12 billion from a number of domestic programs, including home heating assistance for low income Americans and clean water programs.