This was a vote on a resolution setting a time limit for debate and determining which amendments could be offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs, continuing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military, and prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.
Over the objections of many Republicans, President Obama had signed into law legislation repealing DADT in 2010. The Senate had ratified the nuclear arms agreement with Russia—known as the “New Start Treaty”—that same year.
The underlying bill also contained a highly controversial provision that granted the president the authority to "use all necessary and appropriate force during the current armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces." Critics of this provision argued that it amounted to an open-ended authorization for the president to pursue endless warfare in the pursuit of terrorists.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) urged support for the resolution and the underlying bill: “I rise in support of the rule and of H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act [the underlying bill], and I want to thank Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith for bringing this important bill to fruition. The legislation we have demonstrates support for our troops. It is a good bill that will provide them with the tools and support they need as they protect our freedoms and our liberties. In funding our military for 2012, we ensure our troops who are deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the world have the equipment and resources they need to succeed in their missions. There is no higher priority than advocating on their behalf, and they deserve nothing less than the best….I support our troops, and I am proud to stand with them as they protect our freedoms.”
Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) criticized the underlying bill because it did not reduce American military involvement in Afghanistan. He also criticized this resolution for allocating only five minutes of debate to proponents of an amendment that required the president to clarify the U.S. mission in that country. McGovern said: “We see corruption everywhere within the Karzai government in Afghanistan, and we see the basic needs of our own communities--roads, bridges, clean water systems, education, health care, and hunger programs--cut or eliminated for lack of funds. Where does it all end? When does it all end?… We have 5 minutes to describe why the president needs to clearly lay out to Congress, to the American people, to our military men and women, and to our military families exactly how and when we will complete the accelerated transition of our military operations to the Afghan authorities…This Defense bill would give the executive branch carte blanche to fight global terrorism anywhere and by any means…That's not debate, Mr. Speaker. Quite frankly, it's an insult…”
The House agreed to this resolution by a vote of 243-170. Voting “yea” were 230 Republicans and 13 Democrats. 169 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House proceeded to formal floor debate on legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department Programs, continuing the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military, and prohibiting the Obama administration from implementing a nuclear weapons reduction treaty with Russia.