This was a vote on passage of H.R. 3293, which provided fiscal year 2010 funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education .The bill included more than $160 billion in spending for the three departments.
Rep. Hastings (D-FL), speaking in support of the bill, said that the funds for the Department of Education were intended “to prepare America's youth for an increasingly competitive global economy and to ensure that all Americans have access to the education needed to succeed.” He said the funds for the Department of Labor were intended “to protect and develop our current workforce (and to help) . . . the American economy be more competitive.” He also said the funds for the Department of Health and Human Services were intended to provide “much-needed assistance to our vulnerable populations.” Hastings added, “as we in Congress work to pass health care reform in the coming weeks, this bill will help build the capacity of our health care system and provide funding for job training in the health care sector . . . .”
Hastings concluded his remarks by claiming: “(F)or 8 years, the Republican administration placed the needs of the wealthy and the privileged before those of the middle class and the poor, and now we are paying the price . . . With our economy in turmoil, Democrats are picking up the pieces of the Bush administration and restoring this Congress' responsibilities to protect our nation's health and social safety nets to ensure equal access to a quality education and to develop a globally competitive workforce.”
The Republican minority opposed the bill on the grounds of both substance and procedure. Rep. Tiahrt (R-KS) led its efforts. He noted that the bill increased the equivalent fiscal year 2009 funding levels by $11 billion, but said that “the true cost to the American taxpayer has to include the $126 billion that was allocated in the (previously-passed) stimulus act” to the departments funded by H.R. 3293. Tiahrt argued that, “in reality, these agencies have grown by $135.3 billion, or a 93 percent increase over 2 years.” He said the “massive amounts of money . . . in this bill . . . may be good in the long term but have absolutely nothing to do with bringing this country out of the economic crisis we're facing today.”
Tiahrt then noted the other objections the Republicans had with the bill. He said Republicans had “serious problems with regard to cost and access and rationing (of health care), and that there were concerns as to “how this bill will interact with the (pending) health care reform bill, how it will affect the covered agencies, how it will create a situation of rationed health care . . . .”
Tiahrt also repeated complaints that the Republican minority had been making about what it said was an unfair practice of the Democratic majority of limiting the number of amendments that could be offered on spending bills. He said: “(O)ne of the most important duties of this House, as directed by article I, section 9 of the Constitution, is to determine the financial obligations of the federal government, the power of the purse . . . Yet instead of being able to have a healthy discussion, as the Founders intended with this representative body, Members, both Republican and Democrat, I note, are shut out of the process and only permitted to speak for a short time without the ability to offer alternatives.”
The legislation passed by a vote of 264-153. Two hundred and forty-four Democrats and twenty Republicans voted “aye”. One hundred and forty-eight Republicans and five Democrats voted “nay”. As a result, the House approved and sent to the Senate the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.