This vote was on an amendment by Sam Brownback, R-Kan., that would adjust the budget resolution to allow for about $125 million to create a new Commission on Budgetary Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies.
The amendment was offered to the budget resolution that serves as the blueprint for Congress’ budget priorities in fiscal 2009. The budget resolution sets overall spending targets for the Appropriations committees and outlines other budget rules.
Brownback said the commission would be tasked with reviewing every federal program and recommending for elimination any that are duplicative, wasteful or that have not accomplished their purpose. He said the commission’s recommendations would be handed down along the same lines as the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), which recommends military base closures. The BRAC process seeks to minimize involvement from politicians who might seek to protect the interests of their district or state. This is done by requiring Congress to adopt, or reject, the BRAC’s recommendations in their entirety. Congress may not modify these recommendations piecemeal.
“I might note to my colleagues that it has saved us $65 billion since BRAC has been in place. It has worked. It is one of the things that has worked,” Brownback said. “I wish to take that BRAC process to the rest of the Government programs and have a commission identified, just as the BRAC Commission … to give us one vote in a whole package—35 programs, 200 programs—eliminate them or keep them, deal or no deal, and put that on the line.”
Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said he was not opposed to the amendment and asked that it be passed with a voice vote. Brownback declined and called for a roll call vote to be taken in order to see where individual senators are on the issue.
The amendment was adopted by a vote of 49-48. Of Republicans present, all but nine voted for the amendment. Of Democrats present, 11 voted for the amendment and 37 voted against it. (The most progressive members voted no.) The end result is that the budget resolution went forward with language allowing $125 million to be used for establishing a new budgetary commission to review the effectiveness of federal programs.