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Senate Vote: 189     Vote Date: Nov 1st, 2011

Issue:  Senate Amdt. 800 (Coburn) to H.R. 2112 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012. S. Amdt. 800: To reduce funding for the Rural Development Agency.  Question: On the Amendment.

Result:  Rejected: 13 to 85, 2 not voting.  GOP and Democrats scored.

Amendment Summary:  Proposed amendment to the appropriations bill for the department of agriculture (H.R. 2112) To reduce funding for the Rural Development Agency by an estimated $1 billion, or 41 percent.

Analysis:  Funding for rural development is just one clearly unconstitutional overreach of the federal government.   And a budget cut of 41 percent would be a positive step toward eliminating the functions altogether.

Under conservative pressure some years ago, House rules now require that a statement of constitutional authority accompany submitted bills.   The rule, however, has provided little effective restraint on politicians.  Consider this typical copout put forward by Representative Jack Kingston, sponsor of H.R. 2112:

         “Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: The principal constitutional authority for this legislation is clause 7 of section 9 of article I of the Constitution of the United States (the appropriation power), which states:

         ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law….’

         “In addition, clause 1 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution (the spending power) provides: ‘The Congress shall have the Power . . . to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . . .’

         “Together, these specific constitutional provisions establish the congressional power of the purse, granting Congress the authority to appropriate funds, to determine their purpose, amount, and period of availability, and to set   forth terms and conditions governing their use.”

With his reference to Section 8 of Article I, Kingston implies that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to spend money on anything it pleases. By merely quoting the introductory clause, the legislators ignore the list of specific areas in which Section 8 authorizes federal activity. Of course, federal programs for rural development are not in the list (nor is urban development, launched in 1965 as part of President Johnson’s “Great Society.”).

It is wishful thinking to expect that a House or Senate rule will change Congress. Instead, an informed constituency is essential for forcing Congress to comply with the Constitution.

The proposed Coburn amendment drew the opposition of the majority on both sides of the aisle.   This roll call is a good indication of the work that has to be done in building an informed electorate before we can expect Congress to change its stripes.

We have assigned (good vote) to the Yeas and (bad vote) to the Nays. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)