By a vote of 254 to 166, the House agreed to debate a bill expanding voter registration under a restrictive rule that limits amendments from the floor. The bill (HR 2190) addresses the problem of plummeting citizen turnout on Election Day. To qualify more potential voters, it enables eligible Americans to automatically register when they obtain a driver's license, provides for registration desks at many government and private facilities and permits mail registration.
Democratic and GOP sponsors thought they had secured bipartisan support of a debating rule limiting Republicans to a single amendment embodying all changes they would make in the legislation. Such limited rules are used when sponsors fear an onslaught of amendments will kill their measure.
But the unity dissolved when President Bush raised last-minute objections to the bill, prompting GOP leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) to oppose the rule. Angry Democrats then questioned whether House Republicans, the minority party, are sincere in calling for more bipartisanship in the House.