This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R.2892, which provided 2010 fiscal year funding for the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment would have prohibited any funds in the bill going to the organization that electronically tracks and manages criminal information and statistics. Rep. Flake had consistently opposed the insertion of “earmarks”, such as this one, 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.
This amendment was aimed at removing language in the bill that ordered the Department of Homeland Security to fund a project that would provide training, certification and outreach programs to state, regional and local coordinators in the first responder community. Flake said that “this sounds strikingly familiar to a program (that already exists) within the Department of Homeland Security . . . .” He then asked, rhetorically, “why should federal funds be earmarked for a private organization that seems to duplicate an effort already undertaken by the agency for which we are appropriating now? If the Department of Homeland Security requires services that only (this private organization) could provide, the administration could request funds for it.”
Flake also reiterated an argument he had made in opposing a number of earmarks, claiming that they disproportionately favored districts represented by members of the Appropriation Committee and of the House leadership. He noted that 71% percent of the dollar value of earmarks in H.R. 2892 went to 25 percent of all congressional districts and argued: “(T)hat's not an equal distribution. (It is) a “spoils system”.
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 “this request underwent rigorous scrutiny, (and) meets the test of being aligned with supporting the missions of the Department of Homeland Security . . . .”
Rep. Rothman (D-NJ) also opposed the amendment. He represents the district across the Hudson River from the World Trade Center and said his constituents “know firsthand the difficulties that arose in that terrible tragedy because of the inoperability, the lack of communication technologies working together amongst police, fire, and other emergency services.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 112-320. One hundred and eight Republicans and four Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and fifty-two Democrats and sixty-eight Republicans voted “nay”. As a result the funds earmarked for the organization that electronically tracks and manages criminal information and statistics remained in the fiscal year 2010 Department of Homeland Security funding bill.