(H.R.2847) On the Hensarling of Texas amendment to the fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, which would prohibit funds under the bill from being used by the Art Center of the Grand Prairie, Stuttgart, AR, for the Grand Prairie Arts Initiative.
This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Hensarling (R-TX) to H.R. 2847, the fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs. H.R. 2847 was a multi-billion measure that, among other things, expanded funding for criminal justice programs, and provided for improved scientific research, including programs to study climate change. The amendment would eliminate the funds in the bill that specifically provided $155,000 to fund an after-school and summer arts program at the Arts Center of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Republican Members offered a series of amendments, of which this was one, to remove small “earmarked” projects from H.R. 2847. An earmark is the provision of funds in a major appropriation bill for a specific project or purpose.
Rep. Hensarling began the statement in support of his amendment by saying “not all earmarks are bad”; but he then went on to say: “(W)e are in severe economic stress in our Nation today. And as I look at what has happened in the United States Congress, what I have observed is that in the history of Congress never have so few voted so fast to indebt so many. Already on top of a staggering national debt, we have seen a $700 billion bailout program that continues today, a $1.13 trillion government stimulus bill that does nothing to help our economy, (and) a $400 billion omnibus bill chock full of even more earmarks. All of this is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to hardworking American families.” He then suggested: “(M)aybe Members of Congress could quit proposing all of the earmark spending . . . The Federal deficit has gone up tenfold in just 2 years. We're borrowing 46 cents to spend $1 here. We're borrowing money from the Chinese, and we're sending the bill to our children and our grandchildren, which causes me to question, is this the best expenditure for $155,000 of the taxpayer money?”
Hensarling concluded by asking: “(I)s there any time that we decide, maybe something isn't a national priority? And as good as the work that they do at the Art Center of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas, I would suggest to you that there are alternative uses for this money that would help families in America, and it is not a priority, and we must start this spending discipline somewhere.”
Rep. Berry (D-AR), who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee from Arkansas, responded to Hensarling’s remarks by saying “I make no apologies for our attempt to invest in the children of the Grand Prairie in Stuttgart, Arkansas . . . The Art Center is a nonprofit organization that provides after-school and summer programs for troubled youth.” Berry went on to say that the program at issue engaged at-risk youth and is intended to prevent crime. He argued: “(T)hat is the benefit the Federal Government and society as a whole will derive from this project. It is a worthwhile investment in our children.”
Berry then noted that the Republicans “took over this country in January of 2001 with a balanced budget, a $5 trillion surplus and the votes to pass anything they wanted to pass, and they did . . . Their idea of how to grow an economy is, give as much money as you can to the rich people. Don't regulate them at all. Let them do anything they want to, and hope Wall Street takes care of you. Well, we all see what happened. This year we find ourselves in the worst economic circumstance that anyone can imagine.” Hensarling answered by saying “when the Republicans were in control and we had a $300 billion deficit, the now Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called that fiscal child abuse. Now we have a $1.8 trillion deficit. This earmark makes it $155,000 worse.”
The vote was 134-294. One hundred and twenty-eight Republicans and six Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-eight Democrats and forty-six Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the amendment and the funding for the Grand Prairie Arts institute was preserved in the appropriation.