Victory! | Citizens Against Government Waste


The WasteWatcher

On February 16, 2011 taxpayers and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) scored a major victory when the House of Representatives voted 233-198 to kill funding for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as part of H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Resolution (CR) for fiscal year (FY) 2011. The CR, which cut $100 billion from President Obama’s FY 2011 budget (equal to $61 billion from fiscal year 2010 approved spending levels), was approved by a vote of 235-189. The CR contained 61 spending cuts worth $9.9 billion were either identical or similar to recommendations in CAGW’s Prime Cuts.

In addition to the alternate engine, CCAGW scored nine victories with amendments to:

• eliminate funding for the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the internet;
• eliminate funds for the Community Connect broadband grant program;
• reduce the greenhouse gases registry by $8.5 million to FY 2008 levels (the registry is used to build a case for cap-and-tax legislation);
• prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from spending any federal funds to increase the allowable ethanol content of gasoline to 15 percent;
• eliminate funding for the salaries and expenses of personnel in the Department of Agriculture to provide marketing assistance loans for mohair;
• strike funding for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change;
• prevent funds from being used for the salaries and expenses for unconfirmed White House czars and their offices;
• prohibit funds for implementing Department of Education rules designed to limit enrollment in for-profit universities; and,
• stop funds from being used for the construction of an ethanol blender pump or an ethanol storage facility.

The alternate engine vote was remarkable because House Republicans have been reluctant in the past to cut defense spending. In fact, CCAGW rated 120 House votes in 2009, and 67 were related to earmarks. There were 56 votes on non-defense earmarks and to their credit, a majority of Republicans voted to eliminate 48 of the 56, or 86 percent. On the 11 defense-related earmarks, however, a majority of Republicans voted to cut only two earmarks, or 18.2 percent.

A May 27, 2010 vote on an amendment to eliminate $465 million in funds for the alternate engine in the FY 2011 Defense Authorization Act was another example of the Republican lack of support for defense cuts. It was not even close, as 57 Republicans voted in favor of the amendment, and 116 voted against, a margin of 59; on the other hand, 136 Democrats voted for the amendment and 115 voted against. Top Republican leaders, including then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), then-Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and several others, all voted against the amendment, which was defeated by a vote of 231-193. On February 16, when the House voted 233-198 to kill the engine, 110 Republicans voted in favor and 130 against, a margin of 20. That meant 39 more Republicans voted to eliminate funds for the engine that in 2010, a direct result of the November 2010 elections that brought in 63 GOP freshmen.

The wall-to-wall criticism of the alternate engine is well-chronicled. The project has been condemned as wasteful and unnecessary by both the Bush and Obama administrations and numerous top military officials. As recently as January 6, 2011, Secretary Gates stated that spending limited resources on the alternate engine constitutes excessive overhead and that the program is unneeded. The project barely escaped the cutting board for this fiscal year when a letter from Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew included funding for the F136 in the CR that expires on March 4. Since 2004, Congress has earmarked more than $1.2 billion for the alternate engine, including a $465 million anonymous earmark in the fiscal year 2010 Defense Appropriations Act.

There is a heated debate about whether the Senate will agree to any cuts in their version of the CR. A government shutdown is possible, since there will be no time to consider a full-year CR in the Senate before March 4, and the House will not agree to a short-term extension without some reductions in spending. While taxpayers can celebrate the successful votes on H.R. 1, the financial outlook for the nation will remain bleak if the only result of the ongoing efforts to cut spending is a series of Pyrrhic victories in the House.

-- David E. Williams

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