What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Government Funding for a Broad Range of Human Needs : S 761. (Math and science competitiveness) Motion to defeat an amendment by Coburn of Oklahoma seeking to state congressional opposition to incurring more federal debt/On the motion to table (2007 senate Roll Call 140)
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S 761. (Math and science competitiveness) Motion to defeat an amendment by Coburn of Oklahoma seeking to state congressional opposition to incurring more federal debt/On the motion to table
senate Roll Call 140     Apr 24, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win
Qualifies as polarizing?
Yes
Is this vote crucial?
No

This vote occurred on an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., stating that Congress has "a moral obligation to offset the cost of new government programs and initiatives." In essence, passing this amendment would put the Senate on record as endorsing such a notion. Coburn prolifically offers amendments targeting what he believes is wasteful spending, and campaigns against members who allocate money for pet projects (often called "earmarks").

The amendment was offered to a measure that seeks to bolster America's position in the global marketplace by increasing funding for a wide array of educational and research initiatives related to math, science and engineering.]

"This is a sense-of-the-Senate amendment. It does not carry any force of law or anything. All it says is the Senate agrees that before we spend new money, we ought to get rid of the wasteful programs, we ought to get rid of the ones that are not working well, or we ought to make them better before we spend another $60 billion to $80 billion on another set of programs," Coburn said. Coburn, a fiscal conservative, offered this amendment unsuccessfully several times prior to this attempt.

Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Coburn's amendment would have the effect of providing that any new program Congress creates be offset, including those that authorize money. Bingaman said this would hamstring the way Congress operates, since lawmakers often authorize more money for a program than they actually appropriate for it out of the federal Treasury. An authorization is simply permission for a program to be funded up to a certain level. But actual money is only expended through appropriations.

"We should not be required to offset authorizing legislation," Bingaman said simply, and moved to table (or kill) Coburn's amendment.

The Senate voted 54-43 to table Coburn's amendment and defeat it. Democrats mostly voted to kill the amendment, though five sided with Republicans in opposition to the move to table. Independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut voted against the motion to table along with most Republicans (11 voted for it). Thus, the bill went forward without language that would have put Congress on record as believing that it has a "moral obligation" not to authorize more money for new programs than what it has available to spend.

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