This was a vote on final passage of legislation eliminating public funding for presidential campaigns. Specifically, the underlying bill eliminated U.S. taxpayers’ option to designate a portion of their income tax for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The bill would transfer the current balance of that fund to the United States Treasury for deficit reduction. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this bill reduced the deficit by $617 million over ten years.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) urged support for the bill: “…The estimates are that we could save $612 million over a 10-year period. We all know in this Chamber we have a $1.4 trillion deficit problem. Governing is choosing and prioritizing. This is $612 million that doesn't feed a single American, doesn't educate a single American, doesn't build a single mile of interstate highway or infrastructure, doesn't pay to defend the country; it simply goes to support a handful of politicians that want to run for President, many of whom are marginal…. So in an era where we have to make genuinely hard decisions, to me, this is a no-brainer. This is a lot less important than a lot of the things that we need to consider and a lot of the decisions that we will have to make.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) also supported the bill: “…Eliminating this program would save taxpayers $617 million over 10 years and would require candidates and political parties to rely on private contributions rather than tax dollars. In times when government has no choice but to do more with less, voting to end the Presidential Election Campaign Fund should be a no-brainer.”
Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) opposed the bill: “We have a deeply corrupt campaign system, Mr. Chairman. Special interest money is having a corrosive effect on our democracy, eating away at the people's confidence in their government and their elected Representatives. The one beacon of light in this system is the public financing of Presidential campaigns. It is, I would remind everyone, a voluntary system. Americans must choose to opt in on their tax returns. It has served the country well, at limited expense. It needs updating. It does not need to be dismantled. We need more public financing, in all of our Federal elections, not less. H.R. 359 [the bill] goes in exactly the wrong direction.”
Rep. David Price (D-NC) also urged opposition to the measure: “To simply abolish this, to once again turn over presidential financing to big private and corporate interests, to overlook the abuses, the problems that led to this system in the first place, falls far short of what we should be about as responsible legislators looking out for our country's best interests. I ask for members to look at our legislation, to repair and rejuvenate the public funding system and in the meantime to reject this summary attempt to destroy one of the proudest achievements of reform.”
The House passed this bill by a vote of 239-160. Voting “yea” were 229 Republicans and 10 Democrats. 159 Democrats and 1 Republican voted “nay.” As a result, the House passed legislation eliminating public funding for presidential campaigns.