This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) that would have required the Obama administration to identify $5 billion in savings from duplicative programs in the federal budget—and required the administration to submit to Congress a list of programs from which to rescind federal funding. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring federal agencies to set aside a portion of their budget for research and development initiatives.
Inouye’s amendment was one of two similar and competing amendments relating to duplicative federal programs. The other amendment was offered by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). That amendment would have empowered the Obama administration—without congressional approval--to rescind $5 billion from programs that the administration deemed to have duplicative or overlapping missions.
Inouye urged support for his amendment, arguing that Coburn’s proposal ceded congressional prerogatives to the executive branch: “…My amendment addresses the concerns raised by the Coburn amendment…My amendment accomplishes the same objectives, but it maintains the proper deference to Congress on matters of appropriations [federal government spending]. The Coburn amendment…removes the checks and balances [between the executive and legislative branches]. I urge a yes vote on the Inouye amendment and a no vote on the Coburn amendment.”
Coburn opposed the Inouye amendment: “So I understand it [the Inouye amendment] is a cover vote, but what it means is we will never get the $5 billion in savings, whereas my amendment will get us $5 billion worth of savings this year. The way we get rid of a $1.6 trillion deficit is $1 billion or $2 billion or $5 billion at a time….What we are asking the administration to do is take the very low-hanging fruit they can recognize right now…”
The vote on this amendment was 57-43. The Senate had been operating under a unanimous consent agreement (literally, an agreement reached by all senators) that required amendments to receive 60 votes for passage. Since this amendment did not receive the support of 60 senators, it failed. 51 Democrats and 6 Republicans voted “yea.” 41 Republicans and 2 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required the Obama administration to identify $5 billion in savings from duplicative programs in the federal budget—and required the administration to submit to Congress a list of programs from which to rescind federal funding.