Senate Votes on Appropriations Amendments

This morning, the Senate held votes on several amendments to a FY 2012 Appropriations bill for "Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies programs."  One of the amendments that failed 38-60 was an amendment by Senator Paul that would have appropriated $700 million for high priority infrastructure repairs by using money previously appropriated for beautification projects, like flower beds, squirrel sanctuaries, and turtle tunnels.

Additional amendments were offered by Senator DeMint and a motion to recommit offerred by Senator Lee.

Below is the press release from Senator Paul's office about the failed vote:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This morning, the U.S. Senate voted on an amendment to the FY2012 Appropriations bill offered by Sen. Rand Paul that would fund construction efforts on our nation’s most high-priority infrastructure needs without adding to our national debt.

Offsetting the cost of these projects by eliminating transportation enhancement funds used for beautification projects – such as movie theaters, squirrel sanctuaries, turtle tunnels and flower beds – will create nearly $700 million for the Highway Bridge Program. The amendment failed, 38-60.

“With nearly 25 percent of our nation’s bridges deemed either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, we need to make their reconstruction a priority over errant beautification projects,” Sen. Paul said. “My home state of Kentucky has two major arteries in need of immediate repair – one bridge has been shut down, the other in desperate need of repair – and thousands more across the country face the same conditions. I am disappointed my colleagues failed to see this as a priority, affecting our entire nation’s infrastructure and commerce through transportation, and were unable to address this issue without adding to our ever-expanding national debt.”

Another amendment that failed was offered by Senator DeMint to allow the continued sale of over-the-counter inhalers epinephrin inhalers, a much more cost-efficient alternative to the prescription only inhalers like Albuterol inhalers.  

Below is the release from Senator DeMint's office: "54 Senators Risk Health of Millions to Appease Environmentalists on Inhaler Ban"

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) made the following statement after the Senate voted 44-54 against his amendment that would have stopped the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ban on over-the-counter (OTC) epinephrine asthma inhalers. The amendment would have disallowed the use of taxpayer funds to enforce the ban on OTC inhalers. The ban is set to take effect in Jan. 1, 2012 and puts environmental concerns ahead of concerns for the estimated 3 million American asthma sufferers who use these inhalers.

“Fifty-four Senators voted to appease extreme environmentalists by banning inhalers that millions of Americans that depend on to breathe,” said Senator DeMint. “This ban won’t do anything serious to help the environment but it will force asthma suffers to spend two to three times more on prescription inhalers, leading many low-income Americans to seek less effective remedies. Even the EPA and FDA admit that banning OTC inhalers will do little to nothing to affect the ozone, but it could lead to hundreds of thousands of new asthma related hospital visits and hundreds of millions in new health costs.”

“This is exactly the kind of ridiculous regulation that shows why Americans are so fed up with the federal government’s nanny-state mentality. Once again, Washington is willing to put Americans at risk in the hopes of appeasing special interests.”

The FDA estimated that the inhaler ban may result in asthma sufferers self-medicating with less effective remedies, and could lead to an increase in annual health expenditures from $180 million to $1.1 billion and hospital ER visits for asthma could increase by anywhere from 0 to 444,000. (source:http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-27436.htm)

The ban is an attempt to reduce chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) emissions, yet even the FDA admits that “The reduction of CFC emissions associated with removing OTC epinephrine CFC MDIs from the U.S. market represents only a fraction of 1 percent of total global CFC emissions. Current allocations of CFCs for OTC epinephrine MDIs account for less than 0.1 percent of the total 1986 global production of CFCs.” (source: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-27436.htm)

And finally, Senator Lee offered the minorities "motion to recommit" the appropriations bill to committee in order to reduce some of the spending back to FY 2011 levels -- the reduction would have amounted to around $10 billion in cuts (.7% of the budget deficit).  That motion also failed, by a vote of 39-60

His office later sent around the following press release:

WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Mike Lee’s motion to maintain certain 2012 spending appropriations at 2011 levels was voted down. The motion would have affected legislation that will authorize funding for several departments, including agriculture, commerce, and transportation.
“My motion to reduce current 2012 spending by roughly $10 billion should have easily passed at a time when the country is running an annual deficit of $1.3 trillion and is saddled with a national debt as large as the entire annual output of the economy. Instead, today’s vote shows that too many members of the Senate are still committed to fighting every attempt to enact even the smallest amount of savings.
“Worse still, today’s appropriations package will achieve its increased spending levels through accounting tricks and gimmicks that allow the true numbers to be hidden from the American public.
“I will continue to do whatever I can to make the federal government smaller and more transparent.”
Before the vote, Senator Lee made the following comments on the Senate floor:
“Mr. President, I filed this motion to recommit HR 2112 with instructions to send this ‘minibus’ back to the committee on appropriations for one simple reason.: it spends more for the same set of expenditures in fiscal year 2012 than it did in 2011 to the tune of about $10 billion. I understand that there are reasons for this excess. I understand that when we look at individual components of the 2012 provision, there may be some cuts in there.
“But the overall picture, the entire pie, is about $10 billion more than what we had in FY 2011. Unless we can be open and transparent with the American people and acknowledge the fact that we are, in fact, spending more, I think this is a problem. We've got to get this fiscal house in order.”

The final bill passed by a vote of 69-30.

This is your government at work.

Unable to make even the smallest efforts to trim around the edges, offset spending for critical infrastructure, and sacrificing American's health care for the sake of special interest.

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