New House majority held a five-day vote-a-thon on spending cuts
Updated: Thursday, January 10th, 2013 | By Louis Jacobson
As part of their push to cut federal spending, House Republicans promised in 2010 to "bring forward a series of rescissions bills, each of which would be open for amendment to reduce spending even further."
When the Republicans took over the House in 2011, the government was operating under what is known as a continuing resolution -- a temporary spending bill rather than a set of full-year appropriation bills passed under regular procedures.
Shortly after taking control of the House, the GOP brought to the floor a spending bill known as H.R. 1. The measure was intended to cut spending below the level of the continuing resolution. (In a wrinkle that only pique the interest of budget wonks, any cuts made via H.R. 1 would not technically be rescissions -- true rescissions must be proposed by the president and acted upon, or not, by Congress -- but the H.R. 1 cuts would have had essentially the same effect, so we won't quibble.)
Between Feb. 15, 2011, and Feb. 19, 2011 -- a period of 43 hours, 26 minutes of floor time -- the GOP majority offered H.R. 1 under what's called a "modified open rule.” (Wonks can also question whether the "modified open rule” fits the promise's definition of "open for amendment,” since a truly open rule was not in force, but we won't quibble on this point either.)
In all, 583 amendments were submitted to the Congressional Record and thus were eligible for consideration. Ultimately, 162 amendments were actually considered on the floor, including 103 with roll call votes. The results of the roll call votes can be found here and here. Roughly half of the amendments voted on failed (often because they were offered by Democrats) and half were approved.
The amendments ranged from sweeping, such as prohibiting the use of federal money to fund President Barack Obama's health care law (the amendment passed), to more obscure savings, such as prohibiting the use of funds to pay the salaries and expenses of personnel of the Brazil Cotton Institute (this one failed).
We should note for all the time spent debating amendments to H.R. 1, the bill went nowhere in the Senate. While the Senate eventually reached unanimous consent to take up the bill for a simple majority vote, H.R. 1 failed on a near-party-line vote with 44 yeas and 56 nays.
Still, the GOP did not technically promise to enact these cuts -- only to bring them forward for a vote. So we rate this a Promise Kept.
U.S. House, text of H.R. 1 as considered by the House, Feb. 19, 2011
U.S. Senate, roll call vote on H.R. 1, March 9, 2011
U.S. Senate, definition of "rescission,” accessed Jan. 9, 2013
House Rules Committee Republican staff, "Basic Training: Open Rules and the Appropriations Process,” accessed Jan. 9, 2013
House of Representatives, roll call votes in the 112th Congress, 1st Session, accessed Jan. 9, 2013
Email interview with Megan Whittemore, press secretary for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Jan. 9, 2013
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