June 19, 2009
The House Thursday conducted a raucous, marathon series of 53 roll-call votes on the $64.4 billion fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, forcing the delay and cancellation of House committee hearings and markups before the bill was approved, 259-157, and the chamber recessed amid a circus-like atmosphere.
The eight-hour vote-a-rama was spurred by a confrontation between Republicans and Democrats over how many amendments to the bill -- the first fiscal 2010 spending measure to reach the floor this year -- would be considered by the House. The 53 votes in one day broke the modern-day record of 40, set on Oct. 4, 1988.
Republicans Tuesday sought to have the House consider 102 amendments to protest a Democratic-imposed deadline for amendments, effectively limiting the number that could be offered. Typically, there are no amendments limitations on appropriations bills, they claimed.
Citing their goal to finish work on all 12 spending bills by August and the inability of Republicans to agree to any limitations, House Democratic leaders halted consideration of the measure late Tuesday evening, and passed a rule Wednesday limiting the number of amendments to 33 or fewer.
The voting continued into early evening as Democrats were preparing for their joint fundraiser Thursday night for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and its House counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, headlined by President Obama.
As tensions heated up, Republicans at times said that House Speaker Pelosi was letting it be known to their side she would respond by keeping work going past midnight.
But such claims did not seem to rattle the Republicans -- or even be taken seriously. Appropriations ranking member Jerry Lewis noted for reporters that Republicans were fully aware that Pelosi and Democrats had their dinner.
After the final vote on passage, Rep. Tim Holden, D-Pa., who was presiding, moved the House recess subject to the call of the chair, setting off catcalls from Republicans, who were demanding to be recognized for parliamentary inquiries.
After the recess was called, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson of Connecticut and Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., engaged in a mini-debate about what had happened outside of the House chamber, in front of reporters.
"I understand the position of the minority -- when you don't have the votes you want to offer amendments or you want to obstruct," jabbed Larson at one point.
But, Walden responded, "It's a serious issue for our side." And he complained that there are rumors that the rule on the next appropriations bill may limit debate to two minutes on votes.
Moments later, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chimed into the conversation, only to be kidded about his brief appearance on the podium, where he stumbled on a step as he moved toward the presiding officer's chair. "How was it up there?" he was asked.
"Been there. Done that," he joked. He said it brought back memories.
Richard E. Cohen contributed to this report.
June 19, 2009