This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would have eliminated federal subsidies for housing units (for low-income residents) for which landlords had been cited for “life-threatening” deficiencies. This amendment was offered to legislation that would provide annual funding in fiscal year 2012 for Agriculture, Transportation, and Commerce department programs.
Coburn urged support for his amendment: “…There are 4,000 properties in the United States that get money from HUD for housing to help people whom we want to help. There are 450 owners who are chronically on the list of slumlords, who put the people who live in these houses in danger; they are at high risk for losing their lives in that property. This amendment only says that if you are going to continue to put these people at risk of losing their lives, then we are not going to pay you anymore. We are not going to send you money if you continue to be in this group of slumlords who are not spending any of their money bringing their properties up to date and you are leaving people at risk of significant harm.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) opposed the amendment: “I thank Senator Coburn for his passion on this issue. He has raised valid concerns about the bad actors who are part of the Federal program. The problem is…it goes too far. This amendment puts the tenants at risk. It will put the tenants out of a place to live. Earlier, I offered to work with the senator to address the issue in a way that would make sure we protect residents. We were not able to get to a resolution. I hope we can continue to work on this. This amendment, as drafted, will put the tenants at risk and out….I ask my colleagues to reject this amendment. I offer to work with the senator to address this in a way that gets after the problem he has defined.”
The vote on this amendment was 59-40. Voting “yea” were 46 Republicans and 13 Democrats. 39 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” While a majority of senators voted ”yea,” the Senate had agreed by unanimous consent to set a 60-vote threshold for passage of the amendment. Since the amendment did not receive a 60-vote majority, the measure was rejected. All 53 Democrats and 4 Republicans voted “yea.” 43 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have eliminated federal subsidies for housing units (for low-income residents) for which landlords had been cited for “life-threatening” deficiencies.