Providing for the consideration of legislation to require publicly traded companies to allow shareholders to cast non-binding votes on compensation packages for top executives beginning in 2009 (H. Res. 301)/On ordering the previous question (ending debate and preventing amendment)
house Roll Call 219 Apr 18, 2007
This motion was offered to force a vote on the rules for debate for a bill to require publicly traded companies to allow shareholders a say in the compensation packages of top executives. The legislation would require that corporations conduct annual nonbinding advisory votes on the compensation of their executives beginning in 2009.
The resolution outlined the rules for debate for the legislation, including how much floor time would be granted to each side and which amendments would be considered in order. The resolution is thus commonly known as the rules package. This vote was a motion ordering the previous question, which is a parliamentary maneuver that effectively ends debate, prohibits amendment and moves the House to a vote for an up-or-down of the resolution under consideration.
Republicans opposed the rules package primarily because of their opposition to the underlying bill. The Democratic-controlled Rules Committee proposed what's known as an "open rule," meaning that virtually all amendments would be allowed on the House floor if they were relevant to the subject of the underlying legislation.
In rising to support the rules package, Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) said it represented "a good, appropriate rule that allows any germane amendment to be debated and voted on by this body."
"This rule is appropriate because it allows for real debate and for up or down votes on matters related to this bill," McGovern continued. "I believe this is a good process."
He said he supported the underlying legislation because it "would allow the shareholders, those with the most vested interests, to express their approval or disapproval of a company's compensation practices."
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) rose to oppose the rule and the underlying legislation on grounds that the latter "constitutes an unnecessary and unwarranted federal intrusion into the free enterprise system and the private sector."
"The legislation that the Democrat majority has brought to the House today would create a new federal mandate on publicly held companies," Sessions continued, "but does so in a half-hearted way that would have absolutely no practical impact on its purported goal of improving disclosure and addressing 'excessive' executive compensation."
McGovern replied that even if Sessions and his Republican colleagues opposed the bill, they could easily support the rules for consideration, as it allowed virtually any relevant amendment. As evidence for his assertion, McGovern pointed out that 10 of the 13 amendments offered were put forth by Republicans.
If the motion for the previous question is defeated, the House in effect turns control of the floor over to the lawmaker who led the opposition to the question at hand, usually a member of the minority party. As such, motions to order the previous question are usually party-line votes, and the majority party almost always prevails.
Such was the case for this vote, and all Republicans present voted against the measure and all Democrats present but one voted for it, and the motion passed 226-199. Thus, on an almost completely party-line vote, the House ended debate and brought to a vote the rules for consideration for legislation that would require publicly traded companies to allow shareholders a nonbinding say in the compensation packages of top executives beginning in 2009.
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