This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Campbell (R-CA) 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 have prohibited the expenditure of $100,000, which was in the bill, for the Minority Business Development Agency at the Jamaica, New York Export Center. 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.
Campbell began his remarks in support of his amendment by noting that non-defense discretionary spending for the 2010 fiscal year was rising in the appropriations bills that Congress was considering by 12.8%, or $57 billion, over the equivalent 2009 figures. He also noted that the Gross Domestic Product had been falling by 4% to 6%, which he claimed meant that the incomes of Americans are falling by 4 to 6 percent. He then asked, rhetorically, “in this period when the incomes of Americans are falling 4 to 6 percent, should the government be increasing its bureaucratic spending by almost 13 percent? And if it does, where is that going to come from?” He characterized this as “an unsustainable process.”
Campbell added that “many of the agencies of government saw their budgets double over the previous year at a time when regular Americans at home are cutting back (and this additional money) . . . has to be borrowed or it has to be taxed, and right now we are borrowing it, and someday the people on the majority side will probably want to tax it.” Campbell added that it's “another $100,000 to be spent, another $100,000 to be borrowed, another $100,000 we don't have, Americans don't have--that is going to have to be borrowed or taxed to be spent for the Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica, New York, to set up an export center. Campbell concluded that spending this money “just doesn't seem to me as a critical need at this time . . . .”
Rep. Meeks (D-NY), responding for the Democrats, noted that Republican Members often refer to small businesses as “the backbone of America”. Meeks then said “we are losing small businesses by the thousands (and) . . . without them, the average everyday American is in trouble.” He then referred to the Jamaica, New York Export Center, which, he argued “supports the needs of small and midsized freight-forwarding businesses--small business--that surround John F. Kennedy Airport and that aims to provide economic and industrial relief to New York City communities that are grappling with an exodus of export and freight-forwarding jobs and businesses . . .” Meeks noted that thousands of jobs had been lost at JFK Airport and “freight-forwarding firms in Queens County employ approximately 41,000 people.”
Meeks further argued that the export center encourages minority and female entrepreneurs and advises them on methods for operating freight-forwarding businesses. He noted that “the funds would be administered by the Minority Business Development Agency under the Department of Commerce, whose goal is specifically . . . to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in America . . . The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Export Center . . . supports the goals specifically that the program within the Department of Commerce is charged to do. So there is a perfect match here to create jobs, to get people to become small business owners, to maintain low overhead. I think that that's what the American people want.”
Campbell answered by noting that “(T)he Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica, New York, is a private entity funded by private businesses. So we are using $100,000 of taxpayer money to subsidize private businesses here at a time when we don't have the money. And if we're going to do it for the Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica, why not do it for . . . the thousands of Chambers of Commerce that exist all over the country.”
The vote was 129-295. One hundred and twenty-one Republicans and eight Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-seven Democrats and forty-eight Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the amendment and the funding for the Jamaica, New York Minority Business Development Agency was preserved in the appropriation.