This was a vote on whether to bring up a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation which provided that if the Senate failed to pass a bill funding the federal government through September 2011, a House-passed government funding bill would be “deemed” current law. This vote was on a “question of consideration”—literally whether or not to “consider” the resolution.
In March, the House of Representatives passed legislation funding the federal government through September 2011 and cutting $61 billion from federal programs. The Democratic-controlled Senate had rejected that legislation. In addition, President Obama had threatened to veto it. In response, the Republican-controlled House drafted a bill—known as H.R. 1255—that would “deem” the House government-funding bill to have been enacted if the Senate failed to pass a government funding measure. In addition, H.R. 1255 barred members of Congress from getting paid during a government shutdown. This vote was on whether to bring up a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to H.R. 1255.
This question of consideration was used by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to dispose of a parliamentary objection raised by Democrats against the resolution. Democrats argued that the government funding measure passed by the House would harm the economy. They also argued that to “deem” it enacted in the absence of Senate action was blatantly unconstitutional.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) argued: “Let's be clear. The underlying bill…implies that the Senate has passed a bill which has already failed there. It assumes or deems that the president has signed a bill which he threatened to veto. April Fool's, America. [This vote took place on April 1, 2011.] There is no Senate or Office of the Presidency today under the Republican majority bill.”
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) said: “Apparently, the new Republican leadership and their majority believe that they can take control of the parliamentary system. Unfortunately for them, we still have a bicameral legislature, including a United States Senate and a Constitution that requires the president of the United States to sign legislation.”
Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) contended: “This bill does two things, the underlying legislation does two things: It both gives the Senate an opportunity to come out from under its paralyzing inaction and pass H.R. 1 [the House-passed government-funding measure]; and, it says that if the Senate does not, if the Senate fails to act--we are not asking the Senate to do exactly what we want them to do. We are asking them to act. If they fail to act, that Congress will not get paid. Congress will not get paid. My colleagues on the left won't get paid, my colleagues on the right won't get paid, and my colleagues in the Senate won't get paid.”
The House voted to bring up the resolution (in favor of the “question of consideration”) by a vote of 219-172. All 219 Republicans present voted “yea.” All 172 Democrats present voted “nay.” As a result, the House brought up a resolution setting a time limit for debate and prohibiting amendments to legislation which provided that if the Senate failed to pass a bill funding the federal government through September 2011, a House-passed government funding bill would be “deemed” current law.