This vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have allowed dealers to donate vehicles traded in under the Cash for Clunkers program to families or tax-exempt organizations that help people in need. The amendment was offered to a bill that would add $2 billion to the popular “Cash for Clunkers” program, which gives vouchers to people to trade in older, less fuel-efficient cars for newer, more fuel-efficient ones. The cars that are traded in will be partially salvaged and then destroyed.
Coburn said it is wasteful to destroy more than a billion dollars worth of real assets when families and charities could still put those vehicles to good use.
“Real cars that charities could really use to give to real people who do not have transportation—we are taking that away. In our tough economic times right now, charities’ income is down about 30 percent across the board while the demands on the charitable organizations are up. We all recognize that charities use the contributions of automobiles to then turn around to sell and fund a lot of charities,” Coburn said. “What this amendment does is allow the vehicles that are traded in to be donated to poor families or to charities. Why destroy a perfectly good car that somebody in a rural area who cannot get access to health care now because they don’t have transportation—why destroy that mechanism of opportunity?”
Carl Levin, D-Mich., did not address Coburn’s argument about the working poor or charities directly. Rather, Levin talked up the benefits of the program, saying that it has given the country and its automakers an economic boost, and is also a boon for the environment.
“That is the part which the Senator’s amendment does not address. It is intended to get clunkers off the road, not just to get an economic stimulus into the auto area for sales of vehicles that benefit not just producers but car dealers and suppliers, but there is also a huge environmental benefit which has not only proven itself, but done much better than anybody could have expected,” Levin said. “That is ignored by the Senator’s amendment, because keeping those cars on the road, as the Senator would do, denies the environmental benefit of the Cash for Clunkers Program.”
Patty Murray, D-Wash., then made a motion to defeat Coburn’s amendment with a parliamentary maneuver, saying it violated the Senate’s budgetary rules. Coburn then made a separate motion that the rules be waived in the case of this amendment, which is what this vote was on.
By a vote of 41-56, the waiver motion was rejected. All but three Republicans present voted for the motion. All but four Democrats present voted against the motion. The end result is that the motion to waive the rules failed, Coburn’s amendment was defeated with a parliamentary maneuver, and the bill went forward without language that would have allowed dealers to donate vehicles traded in under the Cash for Clunkers program to families in need or to charitable organizations.