Mariel Saez, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC - House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor this evening in opposition to the Financial Services appropriations bill, which would eliminate funding for the Election Assistance Commission. Below are his remarks and a link to the video:
Click here for the video.
“I rise to speak on this bill but not to offer an amendment. I don't offer an amendment because to offer an amendment I would have to identify an offset within the body of this bill. This bill is deeply and harmfully underfunded. Therefore, I will not seek to take from an object that already is underfunded to fund... the Election Assistance Commission.
“I want at the outset to say I served on this Subcommittee for twenty-three years. I know a little bit about the subject of this Committee. Not only that, I was the sponsor of the Help America Vote Act with Bob Ney, my friend from Ohio. That bill was overwhelmingly [passed] with over 350 bipartisan votes. Unfortunately, too frequently bipartisanship eludes us in this body today. I voted against Ryan-Murray because I said at that point in time it did not provide sufficient resources to meet the responsibility this nation has to stay strong, stay free, and to grow our economy and grow jobs for our people.
“As I said, I was the sponsor of the Help America Vote Act. Within that bill we created the Election Assistance Commission. Again, overwhelmingly supported by both sides of the aisle and by the United States Senate and signed into law by President Bush. The offices and programs covered under that program were focused on trying to assist states and local governments to ensure the appropriate administration of elections.
“Is there anything, I ask my colleagues, more important in a democracy than ensuring that elections are well run and that every voter’s vote counts? I suggest to you there is not.
“The Election Assistance Commission, which was established by the Help America Act in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election debacle – that law, as I said, over 350 – to be specific, 357 – members of this body voted for it. The appropriations bill on this Floor today, however, would essentially eliminate that Commission.
“Now, I’m not surprised because, frankly, when the Republicans became the Majority in this House, it was at that point in time they started focusing on the elimination of the Election Assistance Commission – as I said, designed to make our elections more efficient, fairer, and more honest. Initially, my Republican colleagues suggested that the duties of the Election Assistance Commission would be done by the Federal Election Commission, which has a totally different responsibility, and that is the responsibility to make sure that the funding of elections is done appropriately and within the law.
“I'm going to vote against this bill, not simply because of the zeroing out of the Election Assistance Commission. Very frankly, I’m chagrined and disappointed that my Republican colleagues too often are trying to undermine America's right to vote, undermine America's incentive to vote, undermine the facilitating of Americans voting. I, frankly, don't understand that.
“The Election Commission, for the first time in history, said for over 200 years, states and localities had run federal elections. Now, they were concurrent with state elections and local elections, but they ran our elections with no assistance from us – for President, Vice President of the United States, United States Senators and Members of the House of Representatives. We did not participate. Under HAVA, we contributed a substantial sum of money so that they could update and make more efficient the election systems that they had. But, recently, the Republican party, Mr. Speaker, has refused to recommend appointments for the Commission. And now they want to eliminate the Commission.
“Mr. Speaker, in a country that looks at the right to vote and the exercising of franchise as central to our democracy, I would urge us to defeat this bill, to re-fund this critically important agency, and do what we ought to do as Americans and as Members of this Congress, and I yield back the balance of my time.”