What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Curbing Presidential Power : HR 4851. (Extending unemployment benefits and other items) Motion to kill an amendment that would take back $20 billion in unspent funds/On the motion (2010 senate Roll Call 111)
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HR 4851. (Extending unemployment benefits and other items) Motion to kill an amendment that would take back $20 billion in unspent funds/On the motion
senate Roll Call 111     Apr 14, 2010
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This vote was on killing an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have taken back $20 billion in unspent federal funds and used it to pay for the costs of the underlying bill, which would extend for two months certain expired programs, including unemployment insurance benefits. In addition the bill would extend COBRA health insurance subsidies, higher Medicare reimbursements for physicians, national flood insurance and other items. Because of Congressional inaction these benefits had already lapsed for several days and Democrats were eager to push through an extension. 

“The idea behind this amendment is to take some of the $1 trillion that is sitting in accounts that is not obligated—in other words, it will not be utilized this year; it won’t be utilized for at least 2 years—and utilize that rather than charge our children,” Coburn said.

Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Coburn’s amendment would essentially delegate the authority to rescind the money to the Office of Management and Budget, an agency of the White House.  This means that OMB would be deciding how the money is to be spent, instead of Congress.  One of Congress’ traditional roles, enumerated by the Constitution, is to decide how taxpayer money is spent.

“This would be a breathtaking abdication of Congress’s power of the purse. In the Federalist Papers, the power of the purse is described as the most singular power to protect the rights of the free people. We should not quickly surrender that power, and the Senator’s amendment would surrender that power to the tune of $20 billion. The Senator’s amendment would give the Director of the Office of Management and Budget a blank check. It would give him the power to cut whatever unobligated balances he should choose,” Baucus said.

By a vote of 51-46, the motion to kill the amendment was adopted.  All but five Democrats present voted to kill the amendment.  Every Republican present voted against killing the amendment.  The end result is that the motion succeeded, and the amendment to take back $20 billion of unspent federal money and use it to pay for extending various expiring programs, including those to help the unemployed, was killed.

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