This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R.2892, which would have prohibited any funds in the bill to “be available for award to Global Solar, Arizona, for the portable solar charging rechargeable battery systems”. H.R. 2892 provided funding for the Department of Homeland Security for the 2010 fiscal year. The amendment would also have removed $800,000 from the bill, which had been “earmarked” for that purpose.
Rep. Flake had consistently opposed the insertion of earmarks in funding bills. Earmarks are legislative mandates to a federal department or agency to make a grant or award to a specific city, company, institution or other entity. An earmark is typically inserted in a funding bill at the request of an individual Member. Flake first said that his amendment was prompted not by his concern with “the technology nor with the needs of the Border Patrol (which would used the systems), nor with this company in particular.” He went on to say his “concern lies with why a specific for-profit entity was designated to receive this earmark funding.”
Rep. Flake noted that the Global Solar corporate web site describes it as “a ‘privately held company that was incorporated in 1996 that has evolved into a major producer of solar cells.'' He then referenced a recent statement by President Obama that earmarks for for-profit entities are the most corrupting element of the practice of earmarking, and Flake concluded “we simply shouldn't be earmarking funds for private companies in this legislation.”
Rep. Price (D-NC), the chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, who was leading the support for H.R.2892, opposed the amendment. He said “its language had been vetted down at the Department of Homeland Security. It has been certified to be consistent with the agency's mission; otherwise, (the company) simply isn't eligible.” Price also noted that “(T)his earmark, (to which Flake was objecting), is for $800,000 for procurement of portable solar-charging, rechargeable battery systems to be awarded under full and open competition . . . . This item is required by law to be subject to a competitive procurement process. And, indeed, any items now in appropriations bills involving for-profit entities are subject to the same requirement.” Price did not mention that there was language in the committee report accompanying H.R. 2892, referencing Global Solar Corporation, and that the Appropriations Committee had issued a policy statement that such references in the report should carry the force of law.
The vote was 110-318. One hundred and two Republicans and eight Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-five Democrats and seventy-three Republicans voted “nay”. As a result the $800,000 earmark for procurement of battery systems from the Global Solar Corporation remained in the bill providing 2010 fiscal year funding to the Department of Homeland Security.