This was a vote on an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) authorizing the Obama administration—without congressional approval--to rescind $5 billion from programs which the administration deemed to be duplicative. This amendment was offered to legislation requiring federal agencies to set aside a portion of their budget for research and development initiatives.
This was the second of two votes on amendments relating to duplicative federal programs. The first amendment, offered by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), 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. Coburn’s amendment empowered the Obama administration to rescind those funds without congressional approval.
Coburn urged support for his amendment: “There are five departments, eight agencies, and over two dozen Presidential nominees overseeing bioterrorism. We know we can consolidate that….We have 20 agencies, 56 programs dedicated to financial literacy, and we don't even know what they cost….We have 80 economic development programs across 4 different agencies.…So the president has said he wants to do this [rescind funds for duplicative programs]. We ought to give him the tools that will help him do it more quickly because every day we wait it costs us more money.”
Inouye opposed the Coburn amendment, arguing that the Senate should use existing law to require the Obama administration to submit a list of proposed recessions to Congress, as opposed to allowing for such recessions without congressional input: “…Since 1974, there has been a law on our books that does exactly what this amendment proposes to do. It does so without taking away the checks and balances we have in the government. It also does so in a proper way. It goes through the Congress of the United States…. I hope all of us can vote no on the Coburn amendment.”
The Senate agreed to this amendment by a vote of 64-36. Voting “yea” were 46 Republicans and 18 Democrats. 36 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate agreed to an amendment authorizing the Obama administration—without congressional approval--to rescind $5 billion from programs that the administration deemed to be duplicative.