Congress Defies Obama, Moves To End Federal Funding of Presidential Elections

The House passed a resolution to end federal funding of presidential election campaigns and political conventions, despite President Obama’s opposition to the bill.

Rep. Tom Cole (R.-Okla.) sponsored the bill, which will reduce the budget deficit by $617 million over 10 years. The bill passed on Wednesday by a vote of 239-160, with 10 Democrats voting in favor.

The bill eliminates the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, which gives federal funds to presidential candidates during primaries and general elections, and subsidizes the Democrat and Republican national conventions. The money saved is directed to be returned to the general fund of the Treasury Department.

“The Presidential Election Campaign Fund is the very definition of frivolous Washington spending,” Cole said in a statement. He added that only 7% of Americans support federal funding of presidential elections.

Despite the fact that Obama did not take federal funds in his election campaign so that he could raise more money in private funds, he opposes ending the taxpayer funding. The White House put out a “Statement of Administration Policy” on Tuesday in opposition of the Cole bill.

“Its effect would be to expand the power of corporations and special interests in the Nation’s elections; to force many candidates into an endless cycle of fundraising at the expense of engagement with voters on the issues; and to place a premium on access to large donor or special interest support, narrowing the field of otherwise worthy candidates,” stated the White House.

“President Obama himself raised a record $745 million without accepting a dime of federal assistance, and I don’t believe he would say that makes his administration beholden to special interests or that his administration is hopelessly corrupt as a result of forgoing public financing,” Cole said in response to the White House.

Immediately after the bill passed the House on Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

“In a time of exploding deficits and record debt the last thing the American people want right now is to provide what amounts to welfare for politicians,” said McConnell.

McConnell noted Americans were clearly against federal funding of campaigns. “In what is perhaps the largest poll taken in the country every year, fewer and fewer Americans are checking the box on their tax forms to pay for presidential campaign commercials,” he said.

The House vote today was part of the GOP “YouCut” program, which Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) established in May 2010. The Republican House has promised that each week that the House is in session, there will be a vote to cut excess government spending.

Last week, the House unanimously passed the first “YouCut” bill to cut spending on printing bills for Congress. The “Stop the OverPrinting” resolution sponsored by Rep. Chris Lee (R.-N.J.) would eliminate the practice of printing paper copy of each bill for every Member of Congress.

“Stop the Over Printing” would cut government spending of approximately $7 million a year to print the extraneous copies of Congressional resolutions. 

UPDATE: On Thursday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced the Senate version of “STOP The OverPrinting Act.” 

“This bill is a small but important step toward shifting Congress’ focus from borrowing to saving,” said Coburn in a statement. “It is important for Congress to follow through and begin making real, specific cuts.”

Cantor spoke on the floor Wednesday in favor of the second “YouCut” bill, saying that the Republicans are “dedicated to cut and grow. Cutting spending and job-destroying regulations. Growing private-sector jobs and the economy.”

“Yesterday, we directed the Budget Committee Chairman to set spending levels so we return non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels or below,” said Cantor. “Today, the American public, through the ‘YouCut program’, has put on the chopping block an example of unnecessary government waste.”


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