This vote was on a motion to table (or kill) an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would prohibit funds in the underlying bill from going to the Bethel Performing Arts Center in Liberty, N.Y., for a museum memorializing the 1969 Woodstock music festival, a seminal event in the anti-Vietnam War and counterculture movement of the 1960s. The bill in question, which funds the departments of Labor, Health and Education, would allocate $1 million for the museum.
Coburn, a fiscal conservative who often tries to cut spending on member pet projects (referred to as "earmarks"), said that his amendment is not meant to target this particular museum as unworthy, and called the vote symbolic.
"This is a great example. I am part of the hippie generation. I was a junior in college when Woodstock occurred. It may be great for upstate New York to empower and have this as an economic development tool. It is certainly a part of our history and ought to be remembered," Coburn said. "But the question is, should this be a priority for this body over the priority of women and children, of maternal-child health, which isn't funded adequately in this country?"
Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., defended the earmark, saying the new performing arts center – of which the Woodstock museum will be a small part – will be an important engine for economic prosperity and job creation in an area of New York that has been in an economic downturn since upstate New York stopped being a resort destination. He said the state has already put millions of dollars into the performing arts center, and that it is an appropriate use of federal dollars to help the effort.
"I want to review a little about the Bethel Museum in Sullivan County. It is a museum that not just covers Woodstock in the late 1960s, but it covers a whole post-World War II period, focusing on the sixties. It was a tumultuous decade, and it is a good idea to study it. Museums and libraries are a very important part of our history and education, as well as a job magnet," Schumer said. "Most important, it is an economic engine, as important as an economic engine might be in southeast Oklahoma, in the Indian country of Arizona, or the mountains of Montana, and it is what the two Senators—Senator Clinton and I—in listening to the needs of Sullivan County and the people of Sullivan County, the elected officials there and the Chamber of Commerce have said they need most of all."
By a vote of 42-52, the Senate rejected Schumer's attempt to kill Coburn's amendment. Every Republican present voted against killing the amendment. All but five Democrats present voted to kill the amendment. Thus, the motion failed and the amendment that would strip the underlying bill of $1 million in funding for a Woodstock museum proceeded to a vote. Subsequently, the amendment was adopted by voice vote and the money for the Woodstock museum was deleted from the underlying bill.