This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would appropriate $13 billion to extend the emergency fund of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides assistance to low-income families with children, and $1.3 billion for workforce development programs including summer youth jobs. It also would modify the enrollment process for low-income beneficiaries of Medicare prescription drug plans, and get rid of the advanced earned income tax credit in 2011. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend for varying lengths of time, mostly around a year, several programs that would otherwise have expired within a month. These include unemployment benefits, heath insurance subsidies for the unemployed, small business loans, flood insurance and other items.
Judd Gregg, R-N.H., attempted to defeat the bill with a parliamentary maneuver, saying it violated the Senate’s budgetary rules. Patty Murray, D-Wash., then made a motion to waive the rules in this case, which is what this vote was on.
Gregg pointed out that Democrats in the Senate just approved a new budget rule known as “pay as you go” budgeting, often called PAYGO. This new rule makes it easier to defeat bills that raise deficit spending as a way to entice lawmakers to find a way to pay for spending that does not increase the deficit.
“Why do we keep doing this? Why do we keep passing debt on to our children? Why do we keep running program after program out here that is shrouded in sweetness and light but not paid for?” Gregg said. “We just passed a pay-go point of order 4 weeks ago to great fanfare, great breast-beating about how fiscally responsible we were going to be. Yet time after time since we passed that pay-go point of order, amendments have been brought to the floor which violate it. This is another one.”
Murray said the workforce development language in this amendment would create up to 500,000 temporary jobs this summer.
“The underlying bill is going to help millions of families across the country who need a job. This amendment will make sure young people get a start in their professional lives, firmly planted on their feet and moving toward success,” Murray said.
John Kerry, D-Mass., who drafted the TANF language, spoke on behalf of his portion of Murray’s amendment. He noted that 15 million Americans are unemployed, including 42 percent of African-American teens.
“Both the TANF Emergency Fund and the summer jobs program provide desperately needed jobs to our nation’s families who are the most vulnerable to our economic down turn,” he said.
By a vote of 55-45, the motion was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this type of vote requires 60 votes in order to be considered approved. All but four Democrats present voted to waive the rules and allow the amendment to go forward. Every Republican present voted against waiving the rules. The end result is that the rules were not waived, and an amendment that would have appropriated $2.6 billion for TANF and workforce development was defeated.