This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R. 2847, the fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs. H.R. 2847 was a multi-billion measure that, among other things, expanded funding for criminal justice programs, and provided for improved scientific research, including programs to study climate change. The amendment would eliminate $500,000 provided in the bill for the Innovative Science Learning Center of Science South in Florence, South Carolina. Republican Members offered a series of amendments, of which this was one, to remove small “earmarked” projects from H.R. 2847. An earmark is the provision of funds in a major appropriation bill for a specific project or purpose.
Rep. Flake began his statement in support of the amendment by noting that, “(A)ccording to its Web site, ScienceSouth is a nonprofit institution established in 2000 by educators and business leaders and seeks to advance scientific understanding and increase the competitiveness of future generations. ScienceSouth offers programming for schools and families, as well as summer camp sessions, and currently offers hands-on science workshops.” He then said he agreed that the facility “appears to offer a valuable service to the community.” Flake then noted that it receives funding from private corporations and from the state, and said he had to “question how essential it is that ScienceSouth receive Federal funding.”
Flake went on to say:” We're often told that we're trying to wean them off Federal funding. Yet, that weaning never seems to be accomplished.” He then argued that Congress has “a pretty powerful spoils system. It favors powerful Members of Congress over just about everyone else. With more than 1,000 earmarks in this bill . . . Members of the House leadership, appropriators, committee chairmen and ranking members are taking home more than 45 percent of the earmarked dollars in that account. I wish I could say this was the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, it's not.”
Rep. Clyburn (D-SC), the House Majority Whip, who was instrumental in getting the earmark added to the bill, responded to Rep. Flake. Clyburn claimed that the center is “very critical to the education of our young people . . . and to expand the partnerships that all of us are trying to develop with the business community in trying to educate our . . . children who live in disadvantaged or what we call at-risk conditions.” He further argued that “(T)his is not about seeking largesse for the district I represent. This is about educating the children of this great Nation and of my home State.”
Rep. Flake answered by referencing the fact that the federal deficit was $2 trillion and that Members of Congress need “to make some choices at some time. I think all of us would love to have money for every worthy project that's out there . . . At what point do we say, ‘Enough is enough’? At what point do we say, ‘Yes, it is time to wean this program off of Federal dollars’? . . . We all know that we have to borrow any money that we spend on any of these programs . . . I would simply submit that we have got to make some cuts somewhere, and we don't seem to be willing to do it anywhere.” Rep. Clyburn replied that he has “worked very hard on this side of the aisle to make spending cuts . . . but I think it is foolhardy to cut from the education of our children . . . This is an investment in the future of our children and of this great country.”
The vote was 107-320. One hundred and four Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-two Democrats and sixty-eight Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the amendment and the funding for the Innovative Science Learning Center in Florence, South Carolina was preserved in the appropriation.