What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Adequate Government Funding for a Broad Range of Human Needs : Reauthorizing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (H.R. 1868)/Motion to recommit with instructions to cap funding if the federal government is tapping into the Social Security trust fund to finance federal programs (2007 house Roll Call 300)
 Who: All Members : New York, District 2 : King, Pete
[POW!]
 
Reauthorizing the National Institute of Standards and Technology (H.R. 1868)/Motion to recommit with instructions to cap funding if the federal government is tapping into the Social Security trust fund to finance federal programs
house Roll Call 300     May 03, 2007
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This vote represented a Republican attempt to force the adoption of an amendment to a bill to reauthorize the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which conducts a wide range of scientific research. The bill would authorize $2.5 billion for the agency through fiscal 2010. Proposed by Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.), the amendment would cap funding for NIST programs at the previous year's funding level if the federal government uses the Social Security trust fund to finance non-Social Security spending.

In essence, English was attempting to use a procedural motion to tie funding for NIST programs with the health of the Social Security trust fund. The federal government has been borrowing (with interest paid) against surpluses in that fund for decades to finance other spending, but the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers is expected to require every bit of those surpluses.

"In other words," English said, "new spending, because we were running a deficit, was inevitably at the expense of the Social Security system.

"Mr. Speaker, by commingling our Social Security surplus with our deficit-ridden general fund, we potentially expose our Social Security system to risk by shielding our policymakers from their spending decisions to the full consequences and the full balance sheet," English added. "The time has come for us to change that practice. Specifically, this motion says that the funding authorized for the Advanced Technology Program will be capped at the previous year's appropriated amount until such time as the Social Security surplus is not used to foot part of the bill."

Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) countered that the solvency of Social Security is now projected to be 42 years, "and that is based on conservative, conservative estimates." The projected solvency of the program has increased by almost a decade in the past eight years. The reason for that, Wu maintained, was economic growth.

"There is nothing more important to the American economy and our competitiveness than the legislation that we are considering today," Wu continued. "The motion to recommit which the gentleman offers would fundamentally gut this legislation and prevent us from investing in the most productive of technologies, a traditional role which the federal government has played to support research and early-stage development, not commercialization, but early-stage development. By prohibiting those activities with this cap, what in essence would happen is our rate of economic growth would be slackened."

A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure.

All but one Republican voted to send the spending bill back to the Science and Technology Committee with directions to cap funding unless the federal government did not borrow from the Social Security trust fund to finance other spending. But only five Democrats voted for the motion. By a vote of 190 to 216, the motion to recommit with instructions thus failed, and legislation to reauthorize the National Institutes of Standards and Technology moved towards a final up-or-down vote without the restriction.

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