This vote was on whether to allow to go forward an amendment by John McCain, R-Ariz., that would have provided $250 million to fund the deployment of 6,000 National Guard troops to protect the U.S.-Mexico border. The amendment would fund this effort by using money originally allocated by the economic stimulus law that has so far yet to be spent. The amendment was offered to a bill that would provide supplemental appropriations in fiscal 2010, including extra money for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as money for veterans, areas affected by natural disasters, and funding for some social policy initiatives, such as for teachers and firefighters.
When McCain offered his amendment, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., attempted to defeat it with a parliamentary maneuver, saying the amendment violated the Senate’s budgetary rules. McCain then made a motion to waive the rules in this case, which is what this vote was on.
McCain’s amendment came as violence and bloodshed intensified along the U.S.-Mexico border, primarily related to the activities of Mexican drug cartels. But McCain’s amendment also was a political statement. Just prior to offering his amendment, President Obama had announced that he was sending 1,200 National Guard troops to help guard the border.
McCain said: “A fact: The kidnapping capital of the world is Mexico City. The city that ranks second in kidnapping to Mexico City is Phoenix, AZ, which is a long way from the border. It happens to be a place where drop houses exist where people are held for ransom, where unspeakable cruelties are inflicted upon those who are being smuggled, where they have become a distribution center for drugs coming up through the so-called central corridor. We are badly in need of assistance.”
“The President announced he was sending 1,200 National Guard to the southwest border. This is one-fifth of what is needed. If the Congress will not heed the call of the Governors of Arizona and Texas, who have asked the President to send troops to the border, the Congress should do so now,” McCain said.
Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said the drug cartels do need to be fought and the border does need to be protected, but not at the cost of jobs.
“Unfortunately, the three amendments the Senate considered today that were intended to enhance border security would have redirected funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. It doesn’t make sense to cut funding from a program CBO says boosted employment by as many as 2.8 million jobs in the first quarter of 2010, while raising GDP somewhere between 1.7 and 4.2 percent. We face serious fiscal challenges, and we need to cut wasteful spending, but the American people should not have to choose between saving jobs and protecting our border,” Feingold said.
By a vote of 51-46, the motion to waive the rules was rejected. Though more voted yes than no, this particular type of vote needed 60 in order to be considered passed. All but one Republican present voted to waive the rules. Of Democrats present, 12 voted to waive the rules and 43 voted against (including many of the most progressive members). The end result is that the rules were not waived, the amendment was defeated with a parliamentary maneuver, and the bill went forward without language that would have paid for an additional 6,000 National Guard troops to guard the Mexican border with unspent stimulus funding.