This vote was on a motion to kill an amendment by David Vitter, R-La., that would prohibit the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or any ACORN-affiliated organizations from receiving funding under a national service bill. The amendment was offered to a bill that would reauthorize and expand the Corporation for National and Community Service programs (which includes programs such as VISTA and AmeriCorps).
ACORN is a frequent target of Republican attacks; they charge that it is little more than a front group for the Democratic Party, and have accused the group of engaging in fraudulent voter drive practices in support of President Barack Obama's presidential campaign.
Vitter said his amendment is simple and focused. He attempted to head off critics by saying that ACORN's history has shown that it is "in the business of trying to get lots of taxpayer money to underwrite its activity, including through so-called nonpolitical projects."
"My amendment simply states that no money in this program can go to ACORN or any of its affiliate organizations in any way. As I say, on the face of it, that seems like a very specific, very focused amendment, and it is. We are talking about one organization that has done an enormous amount of suspect political activity in the past about which many people in this Chamber—more importantly, many people around the country—have deep reservations," Vitter said.
Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said Vitter's amendment would have far-reaching implications for many worthy organizations.
"This amendment would prohibit AmeriCorps funds to any organization simply because they rented space in the same building as ACORN. In my hometown, many nonprofits are often within the same buildings as other organizations. So there might be a building in Baltimore or Baton Rouge or Fargo, ND, or in New Orleans, where in the very same building that ACORN might be located St. Ambrose Housing Counseling Service might also rent a floor; or it might be the community law center renting another floor in that building; or it might also be the St. Franciscan nuns who might have office space for their outreach to the senior community. So when you are in the same building as ACORN, this amendment would mean you could not get AmeriCorps volunteers," Mikulski said.
By a vote of 53-43, the motion was agreed to. All but two Democrats present voted for the motion. Every Republican present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion carried, the amendment was killed, and the bill went forward without language that would have prohibited any National Service program money from going to ACORN or any organization affiliated with ACORN.