This was a vote on a motion by Rep. Forbes (R-VA) to recommit (send back to committee) H.R. 2647, the bill providing fiscal year 2010 funding for the Defense Department. The motion would have required that the committee add language to the bill increasing funding for military equipment by $5 billion, and reducing, by and equal amount, the funding for the cleanup of militarily-related environmental problems. A large portion of the increased funding would have been for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, Blackhawk helicopters, and unmanned drones for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another significant portion of the funds would have been added to the existing missile defense program.
Forbes said in his statement on behalf of the motion that much of the additional equipment had been “requested by our men and women in combat” and would fulfill “the wartime needs of our troops . . . .” He also claimed that the category of environmental cleanup, which his motion would reduce by $5 billion, had already received more than $5 billion in economic stimulus money, that “cleanup funds do not expire, that the billions of dollars of stimulus funds provided for this effort won't expire for 5 years, and that the environmental projects were “lower priority”. Forbes added that it “is more than reasonable to expect that the Secretary of Energy can responsibly reallocate the resources he receives across the environmental management portfolio.”
Rep. Skelton (D-MO), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, opposed the amendment. He claimed that the reductions the proposed language would have made would “cut the cleanup for radioactive waste and special materials in half.” Rep. Tauscher (D-CA), a member of the Armed Services Committee who resigned shortly after this bill was considered to become Under Secretary of Defense for Arms Control and International Security, also opposed the amendment. Referring to the environmental problems that the cleanup program dealt with, Tauscher said this “isn’t just a little slush in tanks that we are trying to clean up . . . (it) is the 50-year residue of the Cold War; dangerous, dangerous proliferation risks, dangerous health and safety risks, (and) states have agreements, usually because they have sued the federal government, to have this money be spent for this clean up.”
Tauscher had opposed a previous effort to add funds to the bill for the missile program defense by arguing that the $9.3 billion for the program in the bill “supports our efforts to build a robust defense against threats from rogue nations . . . and increases funding for proven missile defense systems . . . by $900 million over the budget level of last year.”
Rep. Abercrombie (D-HI), another member of the Armed Services Committee, also opposed the amendment. He argued that committee chairman Skelton had seen to it “that readiness is first, foremost and fundamental in our deliberations.” Abercrombie said that the amendment should be rejected because the committee “did its work the way it should do its work. We set a standard for bipartisanship, in fact nonpartisanship, when it comes to determining what is in the interests of the fighting men and women of the United States of America.”
The motion was defeated by a vote of 170-244. One hundred and fifty-seven Republicans and thirteen Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and twenty-eight Democrats and sixteen Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the proposed funding increase for military equipment and decrease in the environmental cleanup program were not made, and the House moved to a vote on passage of the 2010 fiscal year Department of Defense funding bill.