This vote was on killing an amendment by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would restrict eligibility for the “Cash for Clunkers” program to people who filed federal income taxes in 2008 and who make less than $50,000 annually (or $75,000 annually for families). Voucher recipients would have to fill out forms affirming they meet the requirements, which would be subject to IRS review. The amendment was offered to a bill that would add $2 billion to the popular “Cash for Clunkers” program, which gives vouchers to people to trade in older, less fuel-efficient cars for newer, more fuel-efficient ones.
“That way, if you put an income limit on it, then the amount of money we are appropriating—that is what we are doing, by the way, spending taxpayers’ money; we are putting this money out there—then that amount of money goes to a smaller subset of people, those who are low and moderate income. If you do that, then you can afford to give them a little bit more money,” Harkin said.
In an unusual move, Harkin was the one who made the motion to kill (table) his own amendment. This was done because another senator, Carl Levin, D-Mich., discovered a drafting error in the amendment. Levin, who wanted to protect the bill from any changes so that it would pass quickly, refused to allow Harkin to correct the amendment.
“Any amendment to this bill will end the bill. It is a death knell for the bill. The modification also would have another delay even if it didn’t kill the bill, even if it were passed and the House were able to adopt it. It requires regulations to be adopted which would take time. It would be a stopping and starting of the program. It would create a great deal of confusion,” Levin said.
Since he couldn’t modify the amendment and offer it again, Harkin moved to table it (many Republicans actually voted against killing the amendment as a thumb in the eye to Democrats).
“I still believe there should be an income cap. But the way the amendment is now drafted, quite frankly, I couldn’t even support it because it didn’t do what I originally wanted to do. There was an error in drafting. I tried to amend it. I can’t seem to get the job done because of the time constraint. Since I can’t modify it, I move to table my own amendment,” Harkin said.
The motion to table was agreed to 65-32. Every Democrat present voted for the motion. Of Republicans present, eight voted for the motion and 32 voted against it. The end result is that the motion to table carried, and an amendment that would have limited eligibility for the Cash for Clunkers program to income tax-filers earning less than $50,000 annually (or $75,000 for families) was defeated.