This was a vote on passage of a bill to establish a program to control and prevent harmful algal bloom and hypoxia. Death and decay of algal blooms deplete oxygen in the water. This process has proven to be deadly for freshwater and marine mammals, and hazardous to human health. The bill would authorize $41 to be spent annually on the program for the next four years.
The House had considered the bill earlier under a procedure known a "motion to suspend the rules." That procedure requires a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the bill for passage. While 263 members had previously voted in favor of the bill, the measure failed to receive the required two-thirds majority. Therefore, the bill failed. Thus, Democrats scheduled the measure for consideration again -- this time under procedural rules that require only a simple majority vote for passage.
Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) argued the bill would save lives, noting that harmful algal blooms can be lethal to humans: "Indeed, it does kill some of our citizens every year. It kills countless numbers of fish life, it destroys tourism, and it costs hundreds of millions of dollars. That seems to me a pretty good reason to take something up….The bill represents a focused effort to address the specific issues of harmful algal blooms and hypoxia."
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) also praised the bill: "This is just the kind of action we need to take more often. We need to provide our federal science agencies the tools they need to gather the scientific data necessary to help us develop an effective solution to this problem."
Very few members spoke in opposition to the bill, although Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) argued the measure could prove to be fiscally irresponsible: "While supportive of the goals of the measure, I and several of my Republican colleagues, and there is a difference among us on this side, have some concerns about the authorization levels in this bill as well as the potential for unfunded mandates on states and localities. This bill authorizes funding that is almost three times the amount that had been appropriated in recent years and is 50 percent higher than the last reauthorization in 2004. In authorizing legislation, we must be mindful of fiscal constraints both at the federal and the state level."
The House passed the harmful algal blooms bill by a vote of 251-103. (76 members did not vote.) 213 Democrats and 38 Republicans voted "yea." 98 Republicans and 5 Democrats voted "nay." As a result, the House passed legislation to establish a program to address harmful algal bloom and hypoxia.