This vote was on whether to kill an amendment by Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would have used unspent money from the 2009 stimulus law to pay for the provisions of the underlying bill, which would extend a variety of expired tax provisions as well as other items. The amendment was offered to a bill that would extend for varying lengths of time, mostly around a year, several programs that would otherwise have expired within a month. These include unemployment benefits, heath insurance subsidies, small business loans and flood insurance.
“I am saying we should use money we have already set aside that has not been spent or eliminate wasteful spending to pay for the benefits that are in this current bill,” Bunning said. “As an example, there is $245 million from congressional office budgets, to end some of the perks congressional leadership and congressional offices have; to end the Forest Service Economic Action Program, $5 million. The program duplicates an existing USDA program—Urban and Community Forestry—that has been poorly managed. Another is to end the Public Telecommunications Facilities Grant Program, $18 million. This program is intended to help public broadcasting stations construct telecom facilities. Since the transition to digital broadcasting has been completed, there is no more need for this program.”
Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who made the motion to kill Bunning’s amendment, which is what this vote was on, said Bunning’s amendment was already voted down “just last month.”
“Proponents make the [cuts] sound like good policy when you listen to them. But Members need to understand this amendment causes harm to our national and international security and to our economy,” Inouye said.
He noted that stimulus money that has been allocated for projects but not yet spent is mostly because some of those projects are proceeding on a more long-term basis.
“This is simply irresponsible governing. For example, a ship is not built in a year or 2 years. A hospital is not built in a year. And if they are not built in a year, these funds are [removed]. This amendment proposes to cut billions in funding the Congress voted on and agreed to provide just months ago. This amendment is not based on careful review and, if adopted, would have serious consequences on our procurement process and many critical programs for fiscal year 2010.”
By a vote of 61-36, Bunning’s amendment was killed. All but one Democrat present voted to kill the amendment. All but three Republicans present voted against killing the amendment. The end result is that the bill to extend expiring programs, such as unemployment benefits and health insurance premium assistance, without language that would have required that spending to be funded by unspent stimulus money.