This was a vote on a motion to recommit that would have frozen spending on existing programs (in legislation intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world economy) at 2010 levels in any year in which there was a federal budget deficit.
A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's opportunity to torpedo or significantly change a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. If successful, the motion sends the legislation back to committee with instructions to amend the legislation as specified.
The House first debated H.R. 5116 (which was a bill intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world economy) on May 13. Republicans offered a motion to recommit that eliminated all new programs established by the bill (including a loan guarantee program for small manufacturers seeking to improve their competitiveness through technological innovation), and froze spending on existing programs at 2010 levelsThe motion to recommit also would have required colleges and universities receiving funds provided by the bill to allow military recruiters on their campuses. In addition, the motion to recommit prohibited federal funds from being used to view, download, or exchange pornography. (The motion to recommit effectively put Democrats in a difficult political position. In order to vote against eliminating programs they supported – such as the loan guarantee program described above – they would have to vote against barring federal funds from being used to view and disseminate pornography.)
The Republicans had effectively torpedoed the bill by attaching the anti-pornography provision to the motion to recommit -- which passed with the support of 121 Democrats. Since Republicans had succeeded in making such drastic changes to the measure, Democratic leaders then withdrew the legislation from the House floor without holding a vote on final passage. Since the House had never voted on final passage of the bill, Democrats brought the measure up again as “unfinished business.” Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) then demanded that the motion to recommit be divided into different sections (this rarely used procedure is known as “dividing the question”). Thus, the motion to recommit was split into nine separate parts. Roll call votes were held on six of the nine sections. (No roll call vote was requested on the remaining three sections.) This vote was on the ninth section, which froze spending on existing programs in the bill at 2010 funding levels in any year in which there was a federal budget deficit.
No debate occurred on any sections of the GOP motion to recommit. When the House debated the GOP motion to recommit on May 13, however, Rep. Ralph Hall argued that increasing spending on the bill’s programs beyond 2010 levels was excessive: “The motion to recommit addresses the biggest concern I, and many of the Members on this side of the aisle, have with the legislation, which is the excessive spending. It will address this issue by…reducing the spending down to the fiscal year 2010 appropriated levels.”
Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), the chairman of the committee that drafted the bill, argued that additional spending was needed to keep the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world: “There are 6.5 billion people in the world. Half of those that are working make less than $2 a day. Now, if we try to compete in a global economy on that type of labor, then you're going to see your kids and grandkids wind up with a national standard of living less than their parents. So we can't win in terms of wages. We have to win by having a higher technological base here.”
The House rejected this section of the GOP motion to recommit by a vote of 181-234. 169 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted “yea.” 233 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected the section of the GOP motion to recommit that would have frozen spending on existing programs in the bill (which was intended to make the U.S. more competitive in the world economy) at 2010 levels in any year in which there was a federal budget deficit.