This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that would eliminate the “Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund” – a fund from which members of Congress could funnel money to local projects in their congressional districts. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for Defense Department programs.
The Mission Force Enhancement Fund, which originally totaled $1 billion, had received considerable scrutiny from critics who argued it was fiscally irresponsible and lacked transparency. CNN’s Cole Deines reported: “The defense bill…includes a back-door fund that lets individual members of Congress funnel millions of dollars into projects of their choosing….Under the cloak of a mysteriously-named ‘Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund,’ Congress has been squirreling away money -- like $9 million for ‘future undersea capabilities development,’ $19 million for "Navy ship preliminary design and feasibility studies,’ and more than $30 million for a ‘corrosion prevention program.’"
Flake urged support for his amendment: “I understand that members want to retain the ability to move money around to areas they feel are underfunded and that should receive additional funding. However, if the committee was able to identify $1 billion in savings, I think it ought to put that savings toward decreasing…the cost of the underlying bill. We have to make tough choices all around in this budget, and Americans across the country are making tough choices with their budget. But to identify a billion dollars in savings, then to move it into a new fund and then allow members to designate their own priorities…I am just not sure what this is all about….there was a news article a couple of days ago that said that some people think this is some kind of slush fund designed to provide members with a pot of money from which they can transfer money to fund their own projects.”
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) opposed the amendment: “Resources from this fund will be used to power programs vital to our homeland defense such as Navy shipbuilding, strike aircraft, and ballistic missile defense…I must repeat my concerns about stripping money from our troops and sending it back to the Treasury. I know how important deficit reduction is. We do need to focus on that, but we have stressed very strongly, we will look at everything that the Pentagon spends, we will go through it with a fine-tooth comb…I strongly oppose any amendment that would reduce the defense top line [overall funding for Defense Department programs]. And while I support Mr. Flake, as we all endeavor to get our spending under control, I must oppose this amendment, as it would strip our fighting force of the tools they need to get the job done and to keep America safe.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 269-151. Voting “yea” were 157 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 112 Republicans. 122 Republicans and 29 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would eliminate the “Mission Force Enhancement Transfer Fund” – a fund from which members of Congress could funnel money to local projects in their congressional districts. Thus, the fund was entirely eliminated from the underlying defense bill.