September 24, 2009
Out of Touch Democrats Vote to Approve Their Own Office Expenses, but Vote Against the Public Interest
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A joint House and Senate conference committee met today to negotiate differences in the Fiscal Year 2009 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The bill would fund operations and expenses of the Capitol and Member and Senate offices and a 30 day Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund government operations after the fiscal year comes to an end on September 30.
“The priorities in this legislation are completely out of touch with the interests of the American people. It is simply irresponsible for the Democrat majority to move forward with funding for their own offices expenses before approving funding for critical national needs,” Lewis said, “I would hope that President Obama – as part of his effort to change the way business is done in Washington – would veto any bill that puts Congress’s business before the peoples business.”
“In addition, this bill carries with it a 30 day extension of funding for the federal government that will give Congress more time to pass its regular Appropriations bills. No one, including Congress and the American people, is well served by a government shut-down. However, it is important to remember that even though Appropriations bills were jammed through the House under a historic closed process without proper debate or the opportunity for amendments on the House Floor, it did little to help the House and Senate complete our Appropriations work on time,” Lewis continued.
While Republicans were shut out from offering amendments on the regular Appropriations bills, they were allowed to offer amendments in the conference committee today. However, all were defeated on party-line votes. Democrats voting against the Republican amendments included Chairman David Obey (D-WI), Sub-Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz (D-FL), Rep. Mike Honda (D-15), Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Rep. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), and Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX).
The following is a description of amendments offered by House Republicans:
National Security/War on Terror:
House Appropriations Ranking Republican Jerry Lewis (R-CA) offered an amendment to put a complete stop on the Obama White House plans to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, insist that detainees in the custody of U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan are not subject to the same rights as American citizens and therefore should not receive “Miranda Rights,” and to halt the release of terrorist detainee photographs which could put our nation’s intelligence gathering efforts and military and civilian personnel at risk. House Democrats voted against this amendment.
Democrats in the conference committee also voted to allow future funding for ACORN through fiscal year 2010. ACORN is currently under investigation in several states for corruption, fraud, and misuse of taxpayer funds. While the underlying CR legislation has a temporary, 30 day prohibition on federal funding for ACORN, a Republican amendment by Subcommittee Ranking Republican Robert Aderholt (R-AL) would have prohibited ACORN or its affiliates from receiving federal funds during the entire next fiscal year. House Democrats voted in lock-step against this amendment.
House Democrats voted to allow TARP funds to continue to be used to bail out banks and other private companies, even after existing loans have been paid back to the government. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) offered an amendment to eliminate the program at the end of the calendar year, and stop TARP from becoming a reusable, $700 billion taxpayer funded “slush-fund” for private corporations. House Democrats voted against this amendment.
The Democrats in the conference committee also voted to slash $8 billion in highway and transportation funding already given out to state governments. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) offered an amendment to allow states to keep the money and cancel the provision in the SAFETEA-LU authorization legislation that would require states to give back the money at the end of Fiscal Year 2009. House Democrats voted against this amendment.
Lastly, Democrats on the committee voted to allow the White House to continue to fund unelected and unconfirmed policy “Czars.” These Administration positions wield considerable responsibility and authority and are funded with taxpayer dollars, yet operate largely out of the view of the public and without Congressional approval or oversight. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) offered an amendment to eliminate funds for these positions unless they respond to Congressional requests for testimony and report to Congress on their activities. House Democrats voted against this amendment.