This was a vote on an amendment to H.R. 2847 offered by Rep. Blackburn (R-TN), which would have decreased by 5% all spending in the legislation not otherwise required to be spent by some other law. H.R. 2847 provided fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs.
Rep. Blackburn began her statement in support of the amendment by saying “spending is out of control here in Washington, D.C. The American people know that this government doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.” She then noted that many states, including her own, have made across-the-board spending reductions “because they had to get in there and address the out-of-control growth.”
Blackburn said “throughout our nation's history, we have had times when this body and our Commanders in Chief have sought to also do across-the-board spending cuts. At the onset of World War II, President Roosevelt came in and made a 20 percent across-the-board cut in nondefense spending. President Truman, with the Korean War, made a 28 percent across-the-board spending cut. And he did that because budgets and appropriations should be about priorities. At this time in our history, when we see so many families and so many businesses struggling, when we see appropriations and spending out of control here . . .the spending binge is unacceptable.”
Rep. Mollohan (D-WV) was managing H.R. 2847 for the Democrats and opposed the amendment. He first argued that an across-the-board cut is indiscriminate and that, in itself, is a reason to vote against it. He further argued that this kind of cut reflects the fact that “someone has not done a thoughtful exercise in going through and trying to find out where there might be a few extra dollars with regard to this account or that account.” Mollohan then said “that's exactly what this subcommittee (that drafted the bill) has done . . . and we have done it in close cooperation with the minority . . . We have looked at every single one of these accounts. We have done exactly what this amendment does not do.”
Mollohan also argued against the amendment by noting some of the programmatic reductions that would result if the amendment were adopted. These included “the complete elimination of $370 million of census contingency funding, significantly increasing the risk of unforeseen events impacting field operations with regard to the census . . .”; the elimination of the Minority Business Development Agency; reductions “in the development of all new NASA missions . . . for which we just heard Democrats and Republicans speak about with great concern”; and a “drop in government support for research and development (that) . . . would stress the nation's research universities at the time that this country needs to invest in research, needs to invest in development so that we're at the cutting edge of the new economy . . . which is at the very heart of President Obama's new economic recovery plan and strategy.”
The amendment was defeated on a vote of 177-248. One hundred and fifty-eight Republicans and nineteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and thirty-two Democrats and sixteen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, no across-the-board cut was made in the in the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Commerce and Justice.