This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) prohibiting federal funds from being used for the Defense Department’s (DOD) “official representation” activities—which included hosting social events such as dinners for military leaders of other countries. This amendment was offered to a continuing resolution funding the federal government through September 2011, and cutting $61 billion in federal funding for many government programs.
Forbes indicated that his intention was to deny funds for such activities until the Defense Department completed an audit of its finances. He urged support for his amendment: “…Since 2006 the taxpayers have entrusted the Department of Defense with over $2.5 trillion, and the law has required that the Department of Defense make sure that they allow the taxpayers to know where that money is being spent by providing audited financial statements….the records at the Department of Defense are so bad that less than 5 percent of all of the monies given to the Department of Defense are in an audit-ready position…. the [official representation funds …are basically party funds. They are funds for dinners. They are funds for entertainment. They are funds that have no impact directly on our war-fighter.…our thought is that if we take away those funds until we have compliance with those audited financial statements that the taxpayers deserve, we will give a strong incentive to make sure that we get that compliance…”
Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) opposed the amendment: “ The amendment would preclude activities associated with hosting military to military contacts, both domestically and overseas. The activity extends official courtesies to guests of the United States and the Department of Defense, and upholds the prestige and standing of the United States. The amendment would also harm the military services' ability to conduct community relations activities. The amendment hurts DOD's ability to represent itself to foreign nations and to the communities in which DOD activities are located.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 281-184. Voting “yea” were 198 Republicans and 43 Democrats. 145 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 39 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment prohibiting funds provided by a continuing resolution from being used for the Defense Department’s “official representation” activities.