This was a vote on a motion made by Rep. Tiahrt (R-KS), which would have send the fiscal year 2010 funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education back to the Appropriations Committee. The motion would have also required the committee to add one billion dollars to the bill for special education programs, and reduce various other categories in the bill by an equal amount.
Rep. Tiahrt supported his motion by noting that “when the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act . . . was enacted . . . the federal government was committed to pay 40 percent of the costs needed to educate a special-needs child. Today, however, we are falling short of that promise. Now, our good intentions have turned into bad consequences. The federal government's mandate has undermined the public school system's ability to adequately meet the needs of the special children. This is not acceptable for either the children who need special education or those without disabilities who watch their education programs cut in order to fund Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act.”
Regarding the funding reductions that the motion would have made, Tiahrt said “we only take money from new programs or we continue programs that exist at a lower level than we have today to replace it with a higher priority program, the Individual with Disabilities and Education Act.”
Rep. Obey(D-WI), who chairs the Appropriations Committee that developed H.R. 3293, opposed the amendment. He said it reflects a practice, in which he was not in favor, of “legislators who think that the way to do business is to cut everybody else's priorities in order to fund theirs. That's not the way 435 (Members) can come to a constructive conclusion.” He then suggested that the real purpose of the amendment was to enable the Republicans “to recover politically” from the fact that none of them voted for the recently-enacted economic stimulus bill, which increased special education funding by $12 billion.
Obey noted: “(I)n the 12 years the Republicans were in control of this House, they increased special education (only) by a total of $8.5 billion. We increased it by $12 billion in 1 year, and not a single (Republican) Member . . . voted for it. And now, they're belatedly trying, by cutting a laundry list of other programs, to pretend that they found a responsible way to free up money to fund Special Education.”
Obey then noted the reductions the amendment would have made to pay for the increase in special education funding. They included $300 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; $170 million from the Community Service and Volunteer Program; a combined $148 million from the Reach Out and Read, Teach for America, Full Service Community Schools, and Reading is Fundamental programs; and $100 million from the School Improvement account .
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 171-248 along almost straight party lines. One hundred and sixty-eight Republicans and three Democrats voted “aye”. All two hundred and forty-eight “nay” votes were cast by Democrats. As a result, no increase in the special education category and no decreases in any other category were made in the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and the House moved to an immediate vote on H.R. 3293.