What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Government Funding for a Broad Range of Human Needs : S 761. (Science and education competitiveness) Amendment by Coburn of Oklahoma to limit the scope of the bill/On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 143)
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S 761. (Science and education competitiveness) Amendment by Coburn of Oklahoma to limit the scope of the bill/On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 143     Apr 25, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote occurred on an amendment to a bill that seeks to bolster America's position in the global marketplace by increasing funding for a wide array of educational and research initiatives related to math, science and engineering. The idea behind the bill is to ensure a robust education for America's future scientists and engineers so that the United States does not lose technology jobs to other nations.

The amendment, offered by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., would add a date by which the bill's provisions would no longer be valid (often called a "sunset" date). In this case, Coburn's amendment would have set that date as Oct. 1, 2011. Sunset provisions are added to bills because they force lawmakers to revisit programs to evaluate whether or not they have been effective. If Congress does not explicitly decide to extend those programs, then the programs must stop by the sunset date.

"This amendment is very simple. It just says that in 4 years, we are going to look at it again," Coburn said. "The key component of what it does is it forces us to look at it because it is going to expire, it is going to run out of gas. What happens now is that we pass things and don't ever look at them again"

Jeff Bingman, D-N.M., opposed the amendment, saying essentially that Congress is not always nimble enough to reauthorize programs by their expiration date. "If everything were perfect around this place, then we would always get our authorizing bills reauthorized in time so that there would never be a lapse. Unfortunately, that is not the case. There are a lot of authorizing bills that we have allowed to lapse. That does not mean that we quit funding those activities. We, in fact, continue funding those activities through the appropriations process until Congress organizes itself and passes a new reauthorization," Bingaman said. He also said that it is easier for funding to be defeated with procedural motions when a program is unauthorized.

Coburn's amendment was defeated by a vote of 27-67. Almost all Democrats were opposed to the amendment, though two voted for it (Evan Bayh of Indiana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri). Republicans were split almost down the middle, with 25 voting for the amendment and 21 voting with Democrats against it.

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