This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) that would have cut $125 million from military bands and musicians. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Defense Department programs. (Since the underlying Defense bill initially provided $325 million for military bands, this amendment would have left $200 million remaining for such purposes.)
McCollum urged support for her amendment: “This amendment would reduce the total funding for military bands to $200 million. …This amendment gives all of my colleagues the opportunity to reduce the cost to government by cutting $124 million from this bill, while allowing the Pentagon to continue to spend $200 million for choirs, jazz bands, ensembles, and other musical missions. There is no doubt that bands are important. We all enjoy listening to military bands and cherish the traditions of military music. But at a time of fiscal crisis, $200 million must be enough for ceremonial music, concerts, choir performance, and country music jam sessions. Maybe you believe that spending $325 million [on military bands] in 2012 is in our national security interests, a national priority that cannot even be cut or reduced. Well, I couldn't disagree more. There are really members in this House who in good conscience vote to cut nutrition for programs for poor, hungry women and infants, but vote to protect a military bands budgets? Is this House really capable of gutting investments on women's health care, but allow $5 million increases in funding for military bands?”
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) opposed McCollum’s amendment: “The band's main mission is music, with a secondary wartime mission for security. Band members train for security, and given the shortage of guards, security is often the band members' go-to-war mission. Every soldier is taught their basic combat skills and can secure the perimeter. The Department of Defense strongly believes that military bands are vital to recruiting, retaining, and community relations, and that they provide patriotic, inspirational music to instill in soldiers, sailors, and airmen the will to fight and win, and foster the support of our citizens and promote national interests.”
The House agreed to McCollum’s amendment by a vote of 226-201. Voting “yea” were 136 Democrats—including a majority of progressives—and 90 Republicans. 148 Republicans and 53 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would cut $125 million from military bands and musicians. In order for this reduced funding level for military bands to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. At the time this vote occurred, the Senate had not acted on this amendment.