This was on a motion to have an immediate vote on the resolution setting the terms for debating the conference report containing the House-Senate agreement on the final version of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Department of the Interior and for environmental agencies. The House and Senate had passed different versions of that funding bill. When the two Houses of Congress pass different versions of the same bill, a final version is typically negotiated in a conference between a limited number of representatives of both bodies. Most conference reports, like most bills, require the approval of a resolution or “rule” setting the terms for their debate, before they can be considered by the House.
The conference report contained a “continuing resolution”, in addition to providing funding for the Interior Department. That “continuing resolution” provided the authority to keep all other departments and agencies of the federal government operating for two additional months into the 2010 fiscal year essentially at their 2009 fiscal year levels. The conference report for this funding bill was being considered early into the 2010 fiscal year, and the spending bills for most federal departments had not yet been approved by Congress and signed into law by the President. Congress had previously passed a “continuing resolution” for the early portion of the fiscal year 2010, but it was about to expire.
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) was leading the Republican opposition to the rule. He expressed the view that a continuing resolution was not needed and should not be included in the legislation. He also focused on the fact that the Democratic majority had limited the number of amendments that were allowed to be offered on the other 2010 funding bills, using the argument that Congress needed to maintain a rapid schedule that would allow spending bills to be enacted by the beginning of the 2010 fiscal year. In recent years, many spending bills had not been enacted by the beginning of the fiscal years to which they applied. Dreier and other Republicans had objected to those limitations on amendments when the other spending bills were considered.
Rep. Hastings (D-FL) was leading the support for the rule setting the terms for debating the conference report and for the motion to move to a vote on the rule. He said that the continuing resolution was needed, although the House had completed its work on all the 2010 spending bills before the beginning of the fiscal year, because the Senate needed “more time to complete their work.”
Rep. Dreier (R-CA) was leading the opposition to the rule and the motion to move to a vote on it. Dreier acknowledged that: “Congress has frequently, under both political parties, taken the action of having a continuing resolution . . . .” However, he then added: “(W)hat makes this particular series of continuing resolutions so significant . . . is that it exposes this year's unprecedented closed appropriations process (as) . . . a hollow excuse because never before in the history of the Republic have we had the appropriations process shut down, as has been the case through this past summer. Time and again, the Democratic leadership told us . . . they had no choice but to shut down the debate . . . because they had a schedule to keep . . . There simply was no time . . . for accountability or for the kind of scrutiny that has gone on under both political parties . . . Well, they completed one-twelfth of their appropriations work by that hard, fast, inviolable September 30 deadline.
Rep. Hastings responded by saying that senators, “regardless of their party, take a great deal of time . . . That's why the process has slowed down . . . because of . . . their rules, their regulations, arcane though they may be, which make it difficult for us to do our business. The House can pass stuff. The Senate has difficulty getting agreements to get to the numbers that are necessary to get past filibusters and the numbers to get the different things that each Senator wants for herself or himself in the measure.”
The motion carried by a vote of 236-183. All two hundred and thirty-six “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. Ten other Democrats joined all one hundred and seventy-three Republicans and voted “nay”. As a result, the House moved to an immediate vote on the rule setting the terms for debating the final version of the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Interior Department, which included a continuing resolution that funded the other federal departments and agencies through mid-December of 2010.