This vote was on an amendment that would have cut funding from a program aimed at increasing access to broadband internet in rural areas.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) offered the amendment during consideration of a bill that authorizes federal programs that assist farmers and low-income Americans. The underlying farm bill called for an increase in funding for broadband internet, from $25 million to $50 million. Sen. DeMint’s amendment would have cut that funding back to $25 million per year.
Sen. DeMint argued that the focus of Congress should be on reducing the federal budget deficit by cutting spending, not increasing spending on programs like broadband internet.
“The current level of spending (for broadband internet) is at $25 million. If anything, given our $16 trillion in debt, one would think we would come in somewhat below that,” Sen. DeMint said. “I encourage my colleagues to have a brief moment of fiscal sanity and vote for my amendment.”
Opponents of Sen. DeMint’s amendment argued that funding to expand broadband internet is an investment in job creation for rural areas.
“In the 1930s and 1940s we made a commitment to rural electrification and extended what was a fairly new technology to communities across the country. We had a boom in innovation and economic growth,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said. “Today, the internet is the new dividing line. Too many communities still don't have access to high-speed broadband internet for businesses in these locations. It is a real competitive disadvantage for them, especially in a global economy.”
Sen. DeMint’s amendment was defeated by a vote of 45-54. Voting “yea” were 45 Republicans. Voting “nay” were 53 Democrats and 1 Republican. As a result, the Senate defeated the effort to cut funding from a program aimed at increasing access to broadband internet in rural areas.