This was a vote on am amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R. 3081, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Small Business Administration, the federal courts and many other federal government operations. The amendment would have eliminated a $100,000 earmark in H.R. 3081 for the Activity Based Total Accountability Project of the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. An earmark is a project that benefits only a specific constituency or geographic area, and which is inserted into a spending bill by an individual Member. A number of Republicans, of whom Rep. Flake was the most active, had been consistent critics of earmarks, and had been offering a series of amendments to remove them from spending bills.
Rep. Flake noted in his statement in support of the amendment that the earmarked funds are “to be used for, quote, activity-based total accountability.” He then said “I find it ironic that we are using the least accountable system, (earmarks), for distributing funds in order to increase transparency somewhere else. At some point, we are all going to scratch our heads and say, wouldn't it be better when we are running at what could be a $2 trillion deficit this year to actually save the money and not spend it and concede to the taxpayers we can't continue to go on this way?”
Rep. Culberson (R-TX), a Republican member of the Appropriations Committee subcommittee that developed H.R. 3170, opposed the amendment. He said: “(O)n a bipartisan basis, we have scrutinized thousands of Members' requests and recommended funding for those projects that the committee believes are most meritorious. In addition, the Small Business Administration was given an opportunity to vet this project and provided the committee with no negative feedback regarding the project or the grantee.”
Rep. Posey (R-FL) was responsible for having the earmark inserted in the appropriations bill. He argued that activity-based total accountability, which is what the earmarked project deals with, “helps us better understand unit-based accounting--what it does, what it costs the government to accomplish a certain task, how does that compare on a State-by-State basis . . . It's the most useful kind of cost accounting which presents the cost for all government activities in a format anyone can understand. Taxpayers can see line by line what government actually accomplishes with its resources.”
Posey noted that the Florida legislature established the Activity-Based Total Accountability Institute on a strong bipartisan vote, and that the state had put $750,000 into the institute. He also noted that activity-based total accountability has been proposed as model legislation by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which he described as “the Nation's oldest and largest bipartisan and nonprofit association of State lawmakers”. Posey then argued: “(I)f you support better government accountability, you should vote against this amendment . . . .”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 102-326. Ninety-five Republicans and seven Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-seven Democrats and seventy-nine Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the earmark for the Activity Based Total Accountability Project of the Florida Institute of Technology remained in H.R.3170.